Protect Yourself Outdoors, Part 2: Ticks & Mosquitoes

Barb_Klaas_blogBarb Klaas, R.N., BSN, has worked at Upland Hills Health for 12 years, and splits her time between 3 departments: nursing informatics (integrates nursing science with information management and analytical sciences to identify, define, manage, and communicate data, information, knowledge, and wisdom in nursing practice), patient and family services, and the inpatient hospital floor. 

Ticks. They are here, right now. And mosquitoes are following close behind. It’s spring in Wisconsin. So what’s the big deal and how do you enjoy the outdoors while protecting yourself?

Tick illnesses most common in Wisconsin include:

  • Lyme Disease – symptoms include a red ring-like rash, headache, fatigue, flu like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes, pain in joints, muscles, or bones.
  • Anaplasmosis – symptoms include fever/chills, severe headache, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, cough, fatigue

Other less commonly seen in Wisconsin tick illnesses:

  • Ehrichiosis – symptoms include fever/chills, headache, muscle pain, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, confusion
  • Babesiosis – Fever/chills, fatigue, headache, nausea, dark urine

Here’s a great resource for up-to-date information about ticks in Wisconsin: http://labs.russell.wisc.edu/wisconsin-ticks/

Mosquito illnesses commonly seen in Wisconsin:

  • West Nile virus
  • La Crosse/California  virus
  • Jamestown Canyon virus

Symptoms for all of these viruses are usually mild and nonspecific, and can include headache, fever, fatigue, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes. More information about mosquito-borne illnesses and tips for preventing mosquito bites can be found here: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/arboviral/index.htm

Protecting Yourself with Insect Repellent

  • Do not apply bug sprays over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
  • Use just enough insect repellent to cover exposed skin and clothing.
  • Use Your Hands for Sensitive, Hard-to-Reach Spots (face, ears)
  • Do not use under clothing.
  • Avoid putting on too much bug spray.
  • Bug sprays can aggravate open cuts and wounds, so avoid areas with broken or irritated skin.
  • After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water.
  • Wash treated clothing before wearing it again.
  • Reapply insect repellent as directed.
  • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you use products containing one of three active ingredients — synthetic chemicals, such as DEET; picaridin; or plant-derived chemicals, such as oil of lemon eucalyptus provide the longest-lasting protection. (The chemical names for DEET may be listed on the product label as the ingredients N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide or N,N-diemethylbenzamide.)

Read product labels carefully, because not everyone should use every product: They may say that oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under age 3 or that products containing DEET should not be used on infants under 2 months of age.

Some people tend to attract more bugs than others, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, so if bugs are starting to bite again, that’s your cue that it’s time for more.

What other tips do you have for protecting yourself from mosquito and tick bites?