During the warmer months, ticks should be on your mind. These tiny bugs feed on the blood of mammals – including humans. At first, you might think of Lyme disease, but it doesn’t stop there. Ticks can carry other life-threatening infections other than Lyme disease.
Keep in mind that ticks live in woody and grassy areas. And yes, that might include your own backyard!
You don’t need to be an avid camper or hiker to be wary of ticks. Whether you’re in the suburbs or country, they should be on your radar.
What Is Lyme Disease?
Of all the tick-borne infections, Lyme disease is the most common. Over 30,000 cases are reported nationwide each year.1 Specifically, it’s most common in the Northeast and upper Midwest. Often, the earliest symptom is a rash called erythema migrans.
The “classic” rash looks like a bullseye, but it can have a bluish or crusty center.2 Additional signs include fatigue, joint pain, headache, fever, and chills. It can take four to six weeks for Lyme to show up in a blood test. If it’s done too soon, the test might come back negative. Treatment includes antibiotics like amoxicillin or doxycycline.3
Other Tick-borne Diseases
Ehrlichiosis can be found all over the country, from the South and Southeast to the Northeast and upper Midwest. The species of tick varies within each region. Fever, chills, and muscle pain are the most common symptoms, which can take 7 to 10 days to appear.4
2. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Despite the name, this disease isn’t only found in the Rockies. People have caught it in Central and South America, too. In the United States, Rocky Mountain spotted fever is most common in the Midwest and along the Southeast Atlantic coast. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain, vomiting, rash, and feeling of general discomfort. On average, it takes seven days to show up.5
Ticks are responsible for more than half of tularemia infections. You can also get it from infected animals and contaminated water.6 It’s most common in the South and Midwest, with more than 50 percent of cases in Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. The symptoms, which appear after 3 to 5 days, vary greatly. Fever, chills, headache, fatigue, coughing, chest discomfort, and muscle pain are a few examples. Vomiting, sore throat, diarrhea, and stomach pain might also crop up.7
4. Powassan Virus Disease
Powassan virus disease, or POW, is very rare. In the last 10 years, only 75 cases have been reported in America. Most were in the Northeast and around the Great Lakes. Symptoms can take anywhere from a week to a month to show up. They include fever, headache, vomiting. POW can also cause brain inflammation or meningitis, leading to confusion, loss of coordination, and speech troubles.8
Anaplasmosis can be found in the northeast, upper Midwest, and Northern California. Symptoms are different for each person, and may take up to 1 to 2 weeks to start. Possible signs include fever, headache, muscle pain, stomach pain, nausea, confusion, coughing, and chills. If left untreated, symptoms can snowball into neurological problems, hemorrhage, and renal failure.9 In 2010, there were 1761 reported cases.10
How To Prevent Tick Bites
- Use an insect repellent.
- Wear light-colored clothing. This makes it easier to find ticks!
- Avoid thick woody areas. Walk in the center of trails.
- Tuck pant legs into socks. Consider wearing long-sleeved shirts.
- After going outside, check yourself, kids, and pets.
- Examine your gear and backpacks, too.
- Shower as soon as possible.
- Wash clothes in hot water, and dry on high heat.
Learn about the most common diseases in your area. If you’re on vacation, do research. Stay alert and check yourself constantly. It’s a small price to pay for safety.
|↑1||Lyme and other tickborne diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑2||Lyme Diseases Rashes and Look-alikes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑3, ↑4, ↑5, ↑7||RINGDAHL, ERIKA. “Tick-borne diseases.” American family physician 64 (2001): 461-466.|
|↑6||Tularemia. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑8||Powassan Virus: Frequently Asked Questions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑9||Anaplasmosis: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑10||Anaplasmosis: Statistics and Epidemiology. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|