The Creepy Crawlies of Autumn

The arrival of autumn brings a wonderful season of change: animals getting ready for the winter, the upcoming festive holidays, Pumpkin Spice Lattes around every corner, and the beauty of the changing tree colors.

But some things simply do not change with the arrival of autumn… in Chicago and the Midwest especially, we need to be on the lookout for ticks and other creepy crawlers after walking in densely forested areas or grassy plains. While spring and summer are the most common months to encounter a tick, most people forget that we can still get bit anytime and then have consequences with diseases.

Ticks are small, insect-like creatures that live in heavily-wooded or grassy areas. If you walk through these areas, they can attach to your skin and feed on your blood. Although most ticks do not carry disease, some can cause serious illness, such as Lyme disease, Powassan virus, or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. To prevent infection, it’s important to remove a tick from your skin as soon as you notice it.

To remove a tick that is attached to your skin, dermatologists recommend the following tips:

  1. Use tweezers to remove the tick. Sterilize the tip of the tweezers using rubbing alcohol and grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Avoid twisting, squeezing or crushing the tick, as this can cause its head or mouth to break off and remain in your skin. If this happens, use tweezers to remove the remaining parts. If you cannot remove the rest of the tick, see a board-certified dermatologist.
  3. Dispose of the tick. Place it in a sealed bag or container; submerse the tick in alcohol; or wrap it tightly in tape. You may also want to save the tick in a sealed jar to bring to your primary care doctor or dermatologist. That way, if you develop any symptoms after the bite, the tick can be tested for disease.
  4. Clean the bite area with soap and water – and schedule a visit to your primary care doctor or dermatologist.
Man walking in woods

Fortunately, there are many things we can do to protect ourselves and our families against ticks. To prevent tick bites, here are some tips!

  1. Walk in the center of trails. Avoid walking through heavily-wooded and brushy areas with tall grass.
  2. If you must walk through heavily-wooded areas, wear long pants and long sleeves. Pull your socks up over your pants, and tuck your shirt into your pants to prevent ticks from crawling up your body. It’s also a good idea to wear light-colored clothes so that ticks can be spotted easily.
  3. Use insect repellent that contains 20 to 30 percent DEET on exposed skin and clothing. Make sure to follow the product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, making sure to avoid the hands, eyes and mouth.
  4. Examine your skin after spending time in heavily-wooded or brushy areas. Conduct a full-body tick check to make sure that no ticks are crawling on you. Since ticks prefer warm, moist areas, be sure to check your armpits, groin and hair. You should also check your children, pets and any gear you used outside.

If you develop any symptoms within a few weeks after a tick bite, such as a rash, fever or body aches, see a board-certified dermatologist. Make sure you tell the doctor about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred and where you most likely acquired the tick.

So be safe while enjoying the beauty of autumn, be sure to keep the creepy crawlies outside (not on your skin), and go pick-up a cup of your favorite pumpkin spiced beverage.