Ticks & Pregnancy: How to Protect Yourself From the Little Buggers

tickYikes. As if ticks weren't scary enough: For the first time, researchers have confirmed a case of a pregnant woman passing the tick-borne illness Babesiosis to her unborn baby. Babesiosis? Whatever happened to Lyme Disease? Oh, it's still out there (in fact, you can have both Babesiosis AND Lyme Disease at the same time!), but Babesiosis is different: A severe and sometimes fatal disease, it's caused by a microscopic parasite, which infects red blood cells. It's also less common than Lyme Disease, but cases are on the rise (especially in the Northeast).

The 6-week-old baby confirmed to have caught Babesiosis in utero recovered after a 5-day antiobiotic-filled hospital stay. But tick-borne diseases are definitely bad news for babies in general, especially since pediatricians often miss the signs in newborns (which can delay treatment). So protecting yourself from ticks during pregnancy is super-important. Here's how:

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Avoid grassy or wooded areas if you can. When you can't, cover up as much as possible: Wear a hat, long sleeves, and long pants with the legs tucked into your socks. Wearing light-colored clothes makes it easier to spot ticks.

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Be careful about insect repellents containing DEET. It works, but the jury is out on whether or not the chemical is completely safe for pregnant women. If you do use it, apply to clothing instead of directly on your skin.

Every time you come inside, check your body for ticks -- particularly such hiding places as the groin, scalp, and underarms. Also check any gear from the outside (backpacks, blankets, etc.), as well as your pets and kids. 

If you do find a tick, use fine-point tweezers to grab it as close to its mouth as possible and slowly pull it straight out. Don't try to suffocate it with petroleum jelly or use the head of a match to burn it. Put the tick in a plastic bag and bring it to your doctor for testing.

Watch for symptoms, which include (but are NOT limited to!) a red, ring-shaped rash, aches, pains, fatigue, and fever. Tick-borne diseases are treatable, even during pregnancy -- the sooner, the better!

What do you do to protect yourself from ticks?

 

Image via dr_relling/Flickr

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