Tick Bites & Lyme Disease

Many of us enjoy a nice stroll through the great outdoors. Spending time in nature inspires and relaxes us. Not all in nature is inspiring though, for example, the tick. It is amazing that such a harmless looking little bug can cause so much suffering. Most dangers in natural settings can be easily avoided or planned for, but the lowly tick hardly seems to command respect or foresight. Perhaps it should. Few agents in nature can make you as sick as as the tiny deer tick can, by infecting you with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease or one of its common co-infections, such as Babesiosis or Ehrlichiosis.

"When most people think of ticks these days, they think of Lyme disease, an infection that is spread by deer ticks found in nearly any woodsy area in the northeast and northcentral United States," says Russell Harris, MD, of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "However, a tick bite, although usually harmless, can also cause many other diseases."

These diseases include Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Tick-borne Relapsing Fever, Tularemia, Colorado Tick Fever, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Lyme disease.

Lyme disease may be more prevalent or more well-documented in the northeast US, however, Lyme is not limited to any region. It has been contracted in every region in the United States. There are more than 800 tick species, and dozens of major tick-borne diseases. The United States has over 80 species of ticks. In North America there are at least nine common tick-transmitted diseases.

Risk of a tick bite increases in summer months, but it can happen any time. May through July are the most likely times. Children and pets are at the greatest risk. Make a habit of thoroughly checking yourself and others for ticks after all outdoor activities.

This list of tips by the American College of Emergency Physicians
(https://www.acep.org/) suggests that you be aware of the symptoms of tick-borne diseases such as Lyme Disease and take the following preventive measures to reduce the possibility of infection from ticks:

Preventative measures:

    •     Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks more easily and prevent contact with the skin.    
    •     Wear long pants tucked into socks, long-sleeved shirts tucked into pants.

    •     Always wear closed shoes.

    •     Keep long hair pulled back. When gardening, wear light-colored gloves, spot-checking them for ticks frequently.

    •     Spot-check yourself and others frequently for ticks on clothes; if you find one, there may be others--check thoroughly.

    •     Avoid sitting directly on the ground and stay on cleared, well-worn trails whenever possible.

    •     Remove clothes after leaving tick-infested areas and, if possible, wash and dry them to eliminate any unseen ticks.

    •     Conduct a full-body check of yourself, your children and any outdoor pets from head to toe for ticks each night before going to bed. Be sure to check the scalp, behind the head and neck, in the ears, and behind any joints.

Ticks transmit infection only after they have attached and then taken a blood meal from their new host. A tick that has not attached has not passed any infection.
If you find a tick, it should be removed with tweezers. Do not burn the tick off with a flame, this causes the tick to regurgitate into the skin, making an infection much more likely.

The proper technique for tick removal:

 Use sharp tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible.

     •     Pull backwards gently but firmly, using an even, steady pressure. Do not jerk or twist.

     •     After removing the tick, disinfect the skin and hands thoroughly with soap and water.

     •     If sections of the mouth parts of the tick remain in the skin, these should be left alone. They will be expelled on their own. Attempts to remove these parts the same way one would remove a splinter usually results in significant tissue damage.

Be sure to watch the tick bite site and call your doctor if you notice any signs or symptoms of a tick-borne illness. Take vitamin C and garlic throughout the day, for many days until signs of the tick bite fade. Don't take chances with tick bites. If you've known anyone who has endured the devastating Lyme Disease symptoms, you know the suffering that Lyme and other diseases can cause.

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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