With kids heading off to camp this summer and families headed to the mountains or camping outdoors ticks can be a problem if not a life-long problem if infected with Lyme Disease or other tick-related diseases. “It’s a good idea to take preventive measures against ticks year-round, be extra vigilant during the months of April-September when ticks are most active,” says Dr. Jeffery West. Ticks transmit over ten diseases to humans and pets. Some of these diseases can be debilitating for the rest of you or your child’s life; it’s important to seek immediate care. Early recognition and treatment decrease the risk of serious complications later on.
Approximately 300,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Lyme disease yearly; while only 30,000 of these are estimated to be reported to the CDC by state health departments. Ninety-six percent of Lyme disease cases come from 13 states.
Preventing Lyme Disease
- Avoid direct contact with ticks
- Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter
- Walk in the center of trails
How To Repel Ticks
- Use repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin for protection that lasts several hours.
- Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes, and mouth.
- Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks, and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and may be protective longer.
Finding Ticks On Your Body
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
- Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
- Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs.
- Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors.
- If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed.
- If the clothes require washing first, use hot water. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks effectively. If the clothes cannot be washed in hot water, tumble dry on low heat for 90 minutes or high heat for 60 minutes. The clothes should be warm and completely dry.
How To Remove A Tick
- Remove the tick as quickly as possible, do not wait for it to detach.
- Use fine-tipped tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, and pull straight up with steady pressure. Then thoroughly clean the bite (and your hands) with rubbing alcohol and soap and water.
- Kill the tick without touching it and throw it away. If you develop a rash or fever following exposure, see a doctor immediately.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease & Tick Illnesses
- Fever/chills: With all tickborne diseases, patients can experience fever at varying degrees and time of onset.
- Aches and pains: Tickborne disease symptoms include a headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. With Lyme disease, you may also experience joint pain. The severity and time of onset of these symptoms can depend on the disease and the patient’s personal tolerance level.
- Rash: Lyme disease, southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), ehrlichiosis, and tularemia can result in distinctive rashes:
- In Lyme disease, the rash may appear within 3-30 days, typically before the onset of fever. The Lyme disease rash is the first sign of infection and is usually a circular rash called erythema migrans or EM. This rash occurs in approximately 70-80% of infected persons and begins at the site of a tick bite. It may be warm but is not usually painful. Some patients develop additional EM lesions in other areas of the body several days later.
- The rash of (STARI) is nearly identical to that of Lyme disease, with a red, expanding “bull’s eye” lesion that develops around the site of a lone star tick bite. Unlike Lyme disease, STARI has not been linked to any arthritic or neurologic symptoms.
- The rash seen with Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) varies greatly from person to person in appearance, location, and time of onset. About 10% of individuals with RMSF never develop a rash. Most often, the rash begins 2-5 days after the onset of fever as small, flat, pink, non-itchy spots (macules) on the wrists, forearms, and ankles and spreads to the trunk. It sometimes involves the palms and soles. The red to purple, spotted (petechial) rash of RMSF is usually not seen until the sixth day or later after onset of symptoms and occurs in 35-60% of patients with the infection.
- In the most common form of tularemia, a skin ulcer appears at the site where the organism entered the body. The ulcer is accompanied by swelling of regional lymph glands, usually in the armpit or groin.
- 30% of patients and up to 60% of children, ehrlichiosis can cause a rash. The appearance of the rash ranges from macular to maculopapular to petechial and may appear after the onset of fever.
Tickborne diseases can result in mild symptoms treatable at home to severe infections requiring hospitalization. Although easily treated with antibiotics, these diseases can be difficult for physicians to diagnose. However, early recognition and treatment of the infection decrease the risk of serious complications. Seek medical advice immediately if you have been bitten by a tick and experience any of the symptoms described here.
Ticks That Can Cause Disease
- Anaplasmosis is transmitted to humans by tick bites primarily from the black-legged tick.
- Babesiosis is caused by microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells. Most human cases of babesiosis are caused by Babesia microti. Babesia microti is transmitted by the black-legged tick.
- Borrelia mayonii infection has recently been described as a cause of illness in the upper Midwestern United States. It has been found in black-legged ticks. Borrelia mayonii is a new species and is the only species besides B. burgdorferi known to cause Lyme disease in North America.
- Borrelia miyamotoi infection has recently been described as a cause of illness in the U.S. It is transmitted by the black-legged tick and has a range like that of Lyme disease.
- Colorado tick fever is caused by a virus transmitted by the Rocky Mountain wood tick. It occurs in the Rocky Mountain states at elevations of 4,000 to 10,500 feet.
- Ehrlichiosis is transmitted to humans by the lone star tick, found primarily in the south-central and eastern U.S.
- Heartland virus infection has been identified in eight patients in Missouri and Tennessee as of March 2014. Studies suggest that Lone Star ticks may transmit the virus. It is unknown if the virus may be found in other areas of the U.S.
- Lyme disease is transmitted by the black-legged tick in the northeastern U.S. and upper Midwestern U.S. and the western black-legged tick along the Pacific coast.
- Powassan disease is transmitted by the black-legged tick and the groundhog tick. Cases have been reported primarily from northeastern states and the Great Lakes region.
- Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis is transmitted to humans by the Gulf Coast tick.
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is transmitted by the American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick, and the brown dog tick in the U.S. The brown dog tick and other tick species are associated with RMSF in Central and South America.
- STARI (Southern tick-associated rash illness) is transmitted via bites from the lone star tick, found in the southeastern and eastern U.S.
- Tickborne relapsing fever (TBRF) is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected soft ticks. TBRF has been reported in 15 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming and is associated with sleeping in rustic cabins and vacation homes.
- Tularemia is transmitted to humans by the dog tick, the wood tick, and the lone star tick. Tularemia occurs throughout the U.S.
- 364D rickettsiosis is transmitted to humans by the Pacific Coast tick. This is a new disease that has been found in California.
Dr. Jeffery West is a Rockwall Otolaryngologist specializing in allergies and ENT surgery. Board Certified by the American Board of Otolaryngologists, Dr. West is Medical Director of Lakeside Allergy ENT with offices in Rockwall, Forney, and Wylie Texas. Named Top10MD in 2016 – an honor only 1-in-3 doctors succeed within the United States. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Jeff West, click on his profile or call his office at 972-398-1131.