Staying up-to-date and knowledgeable about other summertime nuisances, say, the tick, can be a proactive move that not only supports the health of your customers, but also your pharmacy’s bottom line.
People go on vacation, and for smaller communities with independent pharmacies near popular vacation destinations (beaches and campgrounds), this will most likely result in an influx of customers over summer months. Pharmacies can expect an increase in sales for items that treat everything from sunburn to stomach aches. However, local independent pharmacies are also known for their attention to detail and high degree of customer service. Because this is the area where smaller pharmacies excel, staying up-to-date and knowledgeable about other summertime nuisances, say, the tick, can be a proactive move that not only supports the health of your customers, but also your pharmacy’s bottom line.
A Rise in More Severe Viral Infections
Lyme Disease has long been a specter associated with a tick bite however, less common (and more severe) diseases are also on the rise. For example, there were 12 cases of Powassan, a neurological virus that can require hospitalization, reported in the U.S. in 2016 (1), double what was reported in 2015.
Powassan is transmitted quickly when bitten by an infected tick, taking as little as 10 minutes for transmission however, incubation of the disease can take anywhere from one week to one month (1).
Ticks in the United States
For decades, the Northeastern United States, from the coast to the mountains and from Maine to Virginia, has been a popular destination for vacationers – especially during the summer months, as they try to escape the heat of the cities by visiting beaches and campgrounds for a little rest and relaxation. The problem is, these are the most popular spots for ticks (2).
An unusually wet and warm winter has provided the tick population in the U.S. a reprieve from the colder temperatures that generally keep their population in check. But, this doesn’t mean your customers’ summer plans need to be canceled. In fact, keeping a few important tips and guidelines on hand could be a key to protecting them from tick-borne illnesses, while allowing them to get outside and enjoy the warm weather.
Tick Prevention Tips for Customers
Ticks are common in the Northeast, but vacation plans don’t have to be canceled. There are many steps that can be taken to stay protected against tick bites and getting sick! They include:
- When camping, avoid wooded areas that have long (or tall) grasses. This is where deer ticks are most likely to be encountered.
- Stay covered. If a customer plans to hike in the woods, they should wear long pants and sleeves with pant legs tucked into socks for extra protection.
- Wear a good tick repellant. Customers don’t have to resort to DEET repellants, most of which contain 20% (or more) concentrations of the chemical. They can try a safer alternative such as Permethrin, which has a low toxicity to mammals (except cats – Permethrin is toxic to cats) – this alternative is one your customers would use on clothing only. They should never apply Permethrin directly to skin or hair.
- Check clothes and skin vigilantly. Anytime a customer is outside in the woods, grass, or any area where ticks can be found, it’s a good idea to quickly check clothing, skin, and hair for these tiny hitchhikers when they return indoors. Ticks like warm, moist areas, so they should pay close attention to the groin, armpits, toes, scalp, and any other skin creases that could warm up and/or sweat easily.
- Shower after being outdoors. Ticks usually crawl around for a while before settling on a spot and attaching themselves. A good preventative step is to take a shower immediately after coming in from spending any extended time outdoors. Laundering clothes in hot water and/or drying them on high heat is also effective in removing the threat of ticks.
What to do if Bitten by a Tick
If you encounter a customer who is bitten by a tick, there’s no need to panic, advise them to remove the insect by following these steps:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers that can grab the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Using an upward, steady motion, pull the tick out. Don’t twist or “jerk” the tick – this will increase the chances of small parts of the tick’s mouth remaining under the skin and could cause infection.
- Clean the area thoroughly with alcohol, soap and water, or iodine.
- Dispose of live ticks by placing them in alcohol and then sealing them in a bag or container wrapped tightly with tape, or flush them down the toilet. Never try to crush ticks with fingers.
What to Look for if Bitten by a Tick*
The Bottom Line
Ticks can be a real problem, but they’re a problem that customers can take steps against encountering while still enjoying their vacations. Smart pharmacies will make sure they have tick repellants on hand during the summer season, but why not take it a step further? Because independent pharmacies are leaders in customer communication and service, it can be highly beneficial to building customer confidence by having Education and Prevention materials on hand. Something as simple as a pamphlet slipped in with their purchase can go a long way in keeping your customers – and bottom line – healthy this summer.
*If your customer shows any of the signs or symptoms listed, or if they have a tick bite with a bullseye rash, encourage them to see seek medical attention as soon as possible for evaluation and diagnosis.
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