As Tick Season Begins, Follow This Advice to Prevent, Treat Bites

WEST SPRINGFIELD — The start of spring also heralds the start of tick season in Massachusetts. Tick activity increases once ground temperatures are above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, and since ticks carry diseases — most commonly Lyme disease and babesiosis in Massachusetts — prevention and detection are key. The experts at American Family Care (AFC) in Springfield and West Springfield offer tips to help residents protect themselves.

“Not all ticks carry disease, but the potential is there,” said Dr. Vincent Meoli, AFC’s regional medical director for Massachusetts. “Preventing tick bites is the first protection strategy. When you will be outside during tick season, use repellents that contain an EPA-registered active ingredient like permethrin or DEET. We also recommend doing a thorough tick check on yourself and your children if you have been outside. Pay close attention to areas under the arms, behind knees and ears, along the hairline, around the groin, and between toes.”

Other recommendations to prevent tick bites include wearing long sleeves and pants in areas most prone to ticks, such as wooded or grassy settings, and wearing light colors that make ticks easier to spot. Also be sure to check pets when they come back inside to prevent them from bringing ticks indoors.

Any embedded ticks should be removed immediately. Use tweezers and grasp the tick firmly; then, with steady pressure, pull it straight up without twisting it. Safely kill and dispose of the tick, and clean the skin around the bite with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.

“A tick bite in itself is not a reason to panic and does not require medical attention,” Meoli said. “Mark the bite date on your calendar and see a healthcare provider if you experience a rash or other signs of illness — such as fever, headache, fatigue, or muscle aches — in the weeks following the bite.”