Diseases Ticks Carry and How to Protect Yourself
By: Nikki Underwood
Lyme disease – Does that name send chills down your spine and your heartbeat racing? One thing is for sure, tick-borne diseases can be downright terrifying! Ticks give ‘small but mighty’ a new meaning! How can something so tiny wreak so much havoc on a person? From fever to rashes to muscle pain, symptoms of tick illnesses can be brutal. But, never fear! There are many steps you can take to prevent tick bites and the threat of the diseases they carry. So, you may be wondering, what diseases do ticks carry anyway? While Lyme is the most well-known, it isn’t the only one. Let’s take a look at some of the most common tick-borne illnesses and the symptoms to watch out for…
Lyme is one of the most common threats. Most people have heard of the tell-tale bullseye rash, also known as Erythema Migrans (EM), that shows up 3 to 30 days after a tick bite, with the average being about 7 days after a tick bite. According to the CDC, between 70 to 80 percent of infected people will experience the rash at the site of the bite. Some other symptoms include headache, muscle aches, fever, and chills.
If you suspect that you may have contracted Lyme, it is important to be seen by a medical professional to begin treatment as quickly as possible. If left untreated, Lyme can cause long term, damaging effects.
This illness is very similar to the more common Lyme Disease. They share a lot of the same symptoms and can be difficult to self-diagnose. Typically, symptoms will begin to show within 1-2 weeks of being bitten.
The most common symptoms are:
- fever, chills
- muscle aches
- nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- sever headaches
If left untreated, the symptoms will increase in severity. Some of those include respiratory failure, bleeding problems, organ failure, and even death.
This disease is not as common as Lyme and is a little bit more unique, as many people do not experience symptoms at all. The bacteria that causes this illness attacks the red blood cells and will occasionally cause anemia and jaundice. Those who are at the highest risk of complications are people with a weakened immune system and other health conditions. If you begin to experience yellowing of the skin or eyes, seek medical attention immediately.
If you are an outdoor enthusiast on the West Coast, you are more likely to encounter this disease than the rest of the United States. Belonging to the spotted fever family of illnesses, one of the first symptoms of this disease is a black or dark brown scab at the site of the tick bite called an eschar. Like other tick-borne sicknesses, the typical fever, chills, muscle aches, and fatigue soon appear after the scab. Many spotted fevers, including this one, are not life-threatening and will resolve on their own over time. However, it is advised that you seek a healthcare worker for treatment. Antibiotics can treat the symptoms quickly, giving you much-needed relief!
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF)
This is the more significant, meaner cousin to Rickettsioses. The symptoms of this disease tend to be more intense and life-threatening. RMSF is known to progress to a more serious situation quickly and must be treated as soon as possible. Some symptoms include:
- headache, muscle pain
- stomach pain, nausea, vomiting
- lack of appetite
RMSF can cause permanent, long-term damage to the body if left untreated too long. If you find that a tick has bitten you, pay attention to your body over the next few days, and seek medical help immediately if strange symptoms arise. The quicker you get treatment, the better.
I found a tick on my body, now what?
First things first, don’t panic! We will give you simple, easy-to-follow tips on how to remove a tick. Harvard Health suggests that we don’t follow the myths! Refrain from doing the old wives’ tales like burning the tick, freezing it, covering it with petroleum jelly, and more. Those tips can do more harm than good. The longer the tick is attached, the higher the risk of spreading infection. You also don’t want to squeeze the tick which may cause regurgitation and also increases your risk.
- Get a pair of fine-tipped tweezers.
- Grab the tick with light pressure as close to the base and skin as possible.
- Pull the tick out in a steady, upward motion. Be sure not to twist or yank on the tick.
- Once out, clean the area with soap and water and/or alcohol.
- Dispose of the tick.
There you have it! You have the tools to remove a tick, and you know many of the most common signs to watch out for. Believe it or not, there are more than 15 different types of tick illnesses, so there are many that are not covered here. Most of them share similar symptoms to the flu and even COVID-19! So, any time that you are spending time outdoors in tall grass and wooded areas get into the habit of inspecting yourself for ticks when you get home. Also, take proper preventative measures such as using a repellent like Stay Away® Mosquitoes! It will allow you to spend time with nature without the worry!