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Season of the tick — risks posed to the elderly

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Posted on May 21st, 2018 by Teri Dreher, under Infections, Patient Tools, Tips & Resources

It’s that time of year again. Ticks are out for blood (literally) and while no one enjoys their company, the elderly face particular health risks from these springtime pests. More troubling still, tick populations are on the rise and growing rapidly.

 

Regions at risk

Ticks have been around for centuries. In fact, the oldest  known fossil ticks are around 90 million years old! Those fossils were found around the area that is now New Jersey. Today, ticks are all over the country, but are most frequently found in wooded areas and forests. They tend to live on deer, so any area with a high deer population is bound to be rampant with ticks. The highest numbers of ticks are usually found on the East Coast and Midwest regions of the country.

Reasons to run

From the CDC, “Ticks can be infected with bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Some of the most common tick-borne diseases in the United States include: Lyme disease, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, anaplasmosis, Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness, Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever, and Tularemia. While these conditions range in severity and symptoms, none of them are fun. Lyme disease, especially, is of increased concern for seniors. Everyone should take precaution when engaging in outdoor activities where ticks could possibly dwell, but seniors should be particularly careful.

Senior susceptibility

There are a ton of benefits to aging, but unfortunately, we all know of downsides as well. Weaker immune systems falls at the top of that list. Take for instance, Lyme disease. While Lyme disease is often treatable for younger adults, it can be deadly for seniors. Cases of Lyme disease can last for weeks and even months. Like many other diseases, early detection is key. Unfortunately, symptoms present themselves slowly, with increasing severity.

Safety first

While there’s no totally full proof way to prevent tick bites, safety steps should still be taken. Bug spray is always a good idea. DEET is recommended, but if you have access to clothing treated with permethrin, use that. Additionally, long sleeves and pants can be particularly helpful in preventing bites. Because ticks are so ubiquitous, it’s key to always check yourself after being outdoors. Pets are also targets of ticks. Each time after a dog or cat goes out, they should be inspected for ticks too. Any insect bite that results in a lasting rash should be checked out by a medical profession. Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

 

 

With over 36 years of clinical experience in Critical Care nursing, home based health care and expertise as a cardiovascular nurse clinician, Teri is well acquainted with the complexities of the modern healthcare system. She has served as a nursing leader, mentor, educator, and consistent patient advocate throughout her career in some of the best hospitals across the country. Her passion to keep the patient at the center of the model of nursing care led her to incorporate NShore Patient Advocates, LLC in 2011, serving clients throughout the northern suburbs of Chicago.

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