Summer Bummer: Avoiding Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases

warning tick seasonSpending time outdoors in the beautiful summer months is great for your health and a great way to spend time with your loved ones, but when ticks crash the party things can quickly turn unpleasant. Tick bites can occur on anyone anywhere on their body and on pets. They are annoying and can lead to infections, but the real danger lies in tick spread illnesses such as lyme disease which can go unnoticed and cause a number of health problems later in life.

Ticks can be anywhere outside, on trees or in high grass, blowing in the wind, and riding on clothes or pets before biting the unlucky. To avoid them, stick to the center of outdoor paths where there’s less brush cover or avoid wooded areas. Wear hats, long pants, and long sleeved shirts. Tuck the pants legs into your shoes and socks and your shirts into your pants to decrease the amount of skin available for ticks to latch on to. Wear light colored clothes to make it easier to see ticks that get on you, and remove your clothes as soon as possible once you’re indoors. Wash and dry your clothes at high temperatures to kill any ticks that may be hiding in them, and perform a careful body check for any ticks on your skin. If you have pets that go outdoors make sure to regularly check them for ticks as well, tick bites can cause lyme disease or other infections in pets just as easily as they can in humans.

If you find a tick has bitten you the most important thing is to remove it as soon as possible. The chances of developing a tick borne illness increase the longer the tick is attached, and only certain tick species carry these diseases. Either saving the tick or taking a picture for identification once it has been removed can help determine if there is any need for concern. Lyme disease in particular is only spread by blacklegged ticks in the northeast, mid Atlantic, north central states, and northern California. However other tick species transmit other diseases, such as the lone star tick in the southeast spreading human ehrlichiosis, tularemia, and Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI), making it best to prevent all tick bites altogether.

Getting sick in any way after being bitten by a tick should be followed up with doctor tests to see if you’ve developed a tick-borne disease. Many times the symptoms of these diseases are similar to having the flu and go unnoticed and ultimately untreated. The first symptom of lyme disease is the development of a bull’s eye rash where the bite occurred, this rash can appear between 3 and 30 days post bite and not everyone develops it. Next the person can develop, fever, headaches, muscle and joint aches, neck stiffness, and fatigue which may be mistaken for the flu or other minor illness. If left untreated, these symptoms will eventually go away on their own, however leaving the lyme disease to thrive in your body can lead to arthritis and neurological problems later in life. If treated, lyme disease shouldn’t cause any further complications.

Stay tick free this summer, and every summer!

By Samantha Dillon, DR Vitamin Solutions