Want to protect yourself from nasty blood-sucking ticks that are rapidly spreading throughout the U.S.? Every year there is an increase in Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, many of which are difficult to diagnose and treat. Right now, the only sure way to prevent infection is to not get bitten by a tick. Indeed, a recent Global Lyme Alliance survey of its constituents found that 93 percent worry about being bitten when they go outdoors.
Let’s say you’ve followed the recommended tick bite prevention measures, but a tick still finds its way on your skin … What should you do?
Be aware though that if you found one unattached tick, there’s a possibility that yet another tick may be crawling on your body searching for a choice feeding spot. Or one may have hitched a ride on your clothes or pet if you have one. So when you come in from the outdoors, shower or bathe as soon as possible. This will wash off any unattached ticks and give you an opportunity to do a complete full-body tick check. As you explore, pay particular attention to the warm, moist places where ticks love to hide: the groin, navel, armpits, between your toes, around the waist, in your hair, behind the ears and knees.
However, if you can’t get to a shower right away, Global Lyme Alliance’s Director of Education and Outreach, Sara Tyghter, suggests using a lint roller with adhesive paper immediately following your outdoor activities to pick up ticks before they attach. Roll it over your clothing, legs, and arms, just like you would if trying to remove lint or pet hair. “The roller works well for picking up tiny nymph ticks that are hard to see,” she says. “This is a quick way to reduce your risk for a tick bite.” Then shower and do a tick check as previously explained.
It is helpful to take a picture of the tick and note the date of its removal for reference. Remember, you can get multiple infections from a single tick bite, and different species of ticks can transmit various infections.
Many, if not most, people infected with Lyme never knew they were bitten by a tick. One of the first signs of Lyme may be a summer flu-like illness with chills and fever, headache, stiff neck, muscle aches and joint pain. You may also develop a rash anywhere on the body, which may/may not be a circular bulls-eye rash, a well-known early sign of the disease.
If your flu-like symptoms last a few days without any improvement, see a doctor. Request they test you for Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. It’s up to you to let your doctor know you want to be tested. Early detection is key! Lyme and other tick-borne diseases require a doctor versed in their complex symptomatology. Moreover, though current diagnostic tests are unreliable, it’s still a good idea to get tested. Talk to your doctor about taking a prophylactic course of antibiotics. When Lyme goes untreated, it can lead to more severe and persistent symptoms including, neurological and cognitive issues, and potentially fatal heart problems.
What’s most important is the prevention of any and all tick bites. For more on Lyme disease, prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment, and patient support services visit the BeTickAware.org page to access videos, fact sheets, and a host of educational materials to help keep you and your family safe from tick-borne diseases.
Looking for a Lyme specialist in your area? Click here.
To learn more about the stages of Lyme disease, click here.
To learn more about the symptoms of Lyme disease, click here.