During the summer months, there is a big chance that you will encounter ticks. Especially if you venture to areas with tall grass, shrubs, and trees. And no matter if you are outdoors to relax or to go for a hike, you can potentially pick up a tick. Or a tick can attach itself onto your pet, which then can migrate to you while you are holding or touching the pet.
While a tick bite is often harmless or will cause an allergic reaction at most, there are also ticks that transmit dangerous diseases when they bite. And since there are many different types of ticks and they can range in color from black to reddish brown, it’s important that you know how to protect yourself from ticks. So in this article, we will look at the most common tick-borne diseases in humans, their symptoms and treatments. As well as look at ways to keep the ticks away.
Early symptoms of a tick bite
You will most likely not feel the tick biking you. However, since ticks, unlike other bugs, will remain attached to the body after they bite, you will develop some symptoms that alert you that a tick has bit you. There might just be some pain, swelling or redness at the site of the bite. But in some cases, people experience more severe tick bite symptoms like:
- Neck stiffness
- A rash
- A headache
- A Fever
- Swollen lymph nodes
- A burning sensation at the site of the bite
- Joint and muscle pain
And if you are bitten by a tick and notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention at the earliest opportunity. Since these symptoms might indicate either an allergic reaction or that the tick has passed a disease down to you via the bite0.
How to treat tick bites
Once you find a tick on your skin, the first thing to do is to remove it by using a tick removal tool such as a set of tweezers. Begin by grasping the tick close to your skin’s surface and pull it straight up and away from your skin while applying steady pressure. Make sure you don’t twist or bend the tick.
Once the tick is out, inspect the bite site to see if any parts of the tick such as head or mouth have been left on or in your skin. Then ensure that the tick you just removed is dead by submerging it in rubbing alcohol and placing it in a sealed container. Only then you can dispose of it. Use soap and water to clean the bite site and avoid continually scratching the bite site as this will lacerate the skin and cause even more irritation and pain.
Once you have gotten rid of the tick it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible as your doctor will advise you on the possible risks and complications of a tick bite. As well as the best treatment method depending on the type of tick that bit you. Every palace in the world has its own ticks that live there hence there are different risks when it comes to tick bites and tick-borne diseases.
How to prevent infections from a tick bite
The most effective way to avoid a tick-borne illness is to prevent tick bites in the first place. This can be done by wearing longs pants tucked into your socks and a long sleeve shirt when playing or hiking in the areas where ticks are commonly found. When hiking or walking in these areas, ensure that you walk in the center of trails and after the hike use 0.5 percent permethrin to treat your clothing and gear to kill the ticks that have attached themselves to your gear. Also don’t forget to use tick repellent during your hike.
It is also important to take a shower immediately after leaving tick-prone areas. As well as check yourself for ticks and other insects. You should also ask somebody to help you check your back, hair and other hard-to-reach areas. Some areas of your skin to check closely include under the arms, behind the knees, between legs, behind the ears, and in your hair. For a tick to infect a person with a disease, it typically has to feed on your blood for over 24 hours, thus the sooner you identify and remove a tick, the better.
Common diseases caused by ricks
Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in the world, but there are many more tick-borne diseases that scientists have identified and that you should be aware of, like:
- Bartonella henselae/ cat scratch disease
- Rocky mountain spotted fever
- Borrelia miyamotoi
- Bourbon virus
- Powassan encephalitis
Some tick diseases such as babesiosis and anaplasmosis are location-specific since they are more prevalent in the Northeastern United States. While Bourbon virus and Heartland virus are most common in the Midwest. The Rocky Mountain spotted fever is common in the West while the rash illness caused by the southern tick is common in the South.
Powasson encephalitis is one of the most serious tick-borne diseases. This viral brain infection can cause dementia, muscle weakness, seizures and even death in the most severe cases. The Bourbon virus is extremely rare but can cause joint and muscle pain, rash, fever, and fatigue. There is no vaccine for Lyme disease so some of the things to look out for when it comes to Lyme disease are fever or flu-like symptoms, achy joints as well a bulls-eye formation rash around the tick bite.
And Ehrlichiosis is one tick-borne illness that does not discriminate as it is literally found in almost every part of the U.S. The deer tick is known for spreading Babesiosis, anaplasmosis and Lyme disease while the Lone Star Tick is responsible for spreading Ehrlichiosis. The American Dog tick is known to spread the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever while the Deer tick is also responsible for the spread of the Powassan virus.
Symptoms of tick-borne diseases in humans
Anyone who has been bitten by a tick is at risk of getting infected with one of these diseases although not all ticks are carriers. Once you become infected, symptoms may manifest in a matter of days. But there are cases where symptoms manifest only after a few months or don’t appear at all. The severity of symptoms may also vary depending on the specific disease and on the person that has been bitten but some of the most common symptoms of tick-borne diseases include:
- Joint and muscle pain
- Stiff neck
- Facial paralysis
It is advisable to contact your doctor if you start experiencing these symptoms after a tick has bitten you because an early diagnosis will help to treat the tick disease quicker.
Diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne illnesses in humans
Your doctor will be able to offer the most appropriate course of treatment once they assess your symptoms. But usually, with tick diseases, the disease is monitored and analyzed based via laboratory tests that will identify the antibodies or organisms in your blood left by the tick-borne illness. The laboratory tests will also be used to determine the appropriate medication as well as the appropriate duration of treatment.
For a while, now tick-borne diseases have been a serious global healthcare concern. But luckily by knowing the most common tick diseases, how to avoid tick bites and what to do when a tick has bitten you can make sure that your health is not in danger.