Springtime is here and that means a greater risk of tick bites as ticks are more active this time of year.
Some people and animals that are bitten by an infected tick can get any of a number of illnesses, including Lyme disease.
While not all ticks carry the same diseases, at least one variety of disease-transmitting tick can be found in every state. Lyme disease is the most common. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that about 300,000 Americans develop Lyme each year, and we could see even more this year.
“This time of year, April through September, ticks become a lot more active, and you are going to see a lot more of them, especially in grasslands and wooded areas. When you are done with any kind of hiking or outdoor activity, always check yourself for ticks because they will attach to you, and you may not even notice,” said Corpus Christi Medical Center emergency room assistant medical director Dr. Kelly Campbell.
If you find a tick attached to your skin, there’s no need to panic—the key is to remove the tick as soon as possible.
“The thing to do is use something like a pair of tweezers, grasp it as close to your skin as possible, trying to grab the head of the tick and gently pull on it with traction. Don’t yank it, don’t twist it, and don’t try to use any kind of alcohol on it until you are done. Once you have removed the tick in its entirety, go ahead and clean it with soap and water or alcohol,” said Kelly.
Although most infected people will never show symptoms, those who do become sick usually do so a few days to about a week after the tick bite.
“With Lyme disease there is a characteristic target rash you can get several days after being infected with it. Other signs and symptoms, of course fevers, chills, body aches, they are kind of non specific, and you can get arthralgia, meaning your joints ache kind of like flu like symptoms,” said Kelly.
Some tick-borne diseases are treatable, but prevention is the most effective response.
“When you see your doctor with these kind of symptoms, tell them, ‘hey I have been out hiking, and I don’t know if I was exposed to a tick,’ or ‘hey, I removed a tick 5 days ago’. These are important clues to maybe we want to treat you with antibiotics such as doxycycline,” said Kelly.
The best way to avoid a tick-borne infection is not to get bitten in the first place by always using an effective insect repellent.
Consumer Reports extensive testing of insect repellents found products that contain between 15 and 30-percent Deet are best at repelling ticks, along with products with 20-percent Picaridin or 30-percent “Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.”
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.
Avoid Contact with Ticks
• Use repellant
If you find a tick attached to your skin, there’s no need to panic—the key is to remove the tick as soon as possible. There are several tick removal devices on the market, but a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers work very well.
How to remove a tick
4. Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.
If you’ve been exposed to ticks, be alert for fever, headache and muscle pains, and if you experience them, see a physician and mention you’ve been exposed to ticks. A hallmark of Lyme disease is a bull’s-eye-patterned rash. If you do not recall getting a tick bite but have been working outdoors or visited other tick habitats and develop such symptoms, it is important to tell your doctor,
Symptoms of tick-borne illness
• Facial paralysis
these signs and symptoms can occur within a month after you’ve been infected: Rash. From three to 30 days after an infected tick bite, an expanding red area might appear that sometimes clears in the center, forming a bull’s-eye pattern
While Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne illness, ticks may carry multiple infectious organisms (co-infections) along with Lyme.