An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Features : Display
NEWS | June 17, 2013

Preventing tick bites for a healthy summer

By 633rd Medical Group Public Health Clinic

As Service members begin to spend more time outdoors this summer, chances of being exposed to ticks and tick-borne diseases also increase.

Lyme disease cases continue to rise in Virginia. An estimated 1,110 confirmed or probable cases occurred in 2012 - roughly a 9 percent increase over cases in 2011. Lyme disease in Virginia continues to spread west and south from more concentrated areas in the northern part of the state.

The landscape on Joint Base Langley-Eustis is an especially prone area, said Tech. Sgt. Aspen Higgins, 633rd Medical Group Community Health Clinic noncommissioned officer in charge.

"Ticks are abundant in the grassy and wooded areas of Joint-Base Langley Eustis and the local community," said Higgins. "They are waiting for the opportunity to latch on to an unsuspecting victim. Service members and their families should heed to tick-bite prevention measures because tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease, are preventable."

Higgins and the Public Health Clinic offer the following tips for tick bite and tick-borne disease prevention:

· Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and fallen leaves.
· Walk in the center of trails.
· Wear light-colored clothing, which allows you to see ticks crawling on your clothes.
· Tuck pant legs into socks so ticks cannot crawl up the inside of pant legs.
· Use repellent containing 20% or more DEET (N, N-Diethyl-m-toluamide) on skin or clothing to discourage tick attachment. While DEET is effective, however, it only works for a few hours. Products containing permetherin can be used to treat boots, clothes, socks or camping gear, and it lasts through several washings and for several days. Pre-treated clothing is available and remains protective for up to 70 washings.
· Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that may be crawling on your body.
· Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around ears, inside the belly button, behind knees, between legs, around the waist and especially in hair.
· Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets and then attach to a person later. Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.

If ticks are found on the skin, Higgins said there are several tick removal devices on the market, but a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers will remove a tick quite effectively:

· Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible.
· Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
· After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

Higgins also suggested avoiding home-remedies such as "painting" the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. The goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible, not wait for it to detach.

While Lyme disease is rarely life-threatening, Higgins said if a rash or fever develops within several weeks of removing a tick, seek medical attention.

"In most cases, initial symptoms are minor and may appear somewhat vague. However, long-term symptoms may cause more severe health effects," she said. "The initial impact to readiness and military duty is fairly minimal, but those suffering from late Lyme disease may be difficult to diagnose, possibly resulting is costly and unnecessary medical appointments, testing and treatment."

Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease
The early stage of Lyme disease is usually marked by one or more of the following signs and symptoms:

· A characteristic "bull's-eye" skin rash, called erythema migrans
· Fatigue
· Chills and fever
· Headache
· Muscle and joint pain
· Swollen lymph nodes

Untreated, the infection may spread from the site of the bite to other parts of the body, producing an array of specific symptoms that may come and go, including:

· Additional EM lesions in other areas of the body
· Facial or Bell's palsy (loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face)
· Severe headaches and neck stiffness due to meningitis (inflammation of the spinal cord)
· Pain and swelling in the large joints (such as knees)
· Shooting pains that may interfere with sleep
· Heart palpitations and dizziness due to changes in heartbeat

Many of these symptoms will resolve over a period of weeks to months, even without treatment. However, lack of treatment can result in additional complications.

The staff at the Public Health office hopes Service members can be more aware of the effects of Lyme disease. Taking the necessary steps to prevent tick bites helps to ensure the Langley community can have an enjoyable summer season.

For more information on Lyme disease and tick removal, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at, or call the Joint Base Langley-Eustis Public Health Office at 764-6731.