What are ticks? What are tick bites? Or rather, what makes ticks, er, tick? And why do they bite us?
While ticks and tick bites can seem very frightening, there’s actually little you need to worry about if you take preventative steps. Find out how to combat ticks with these helpful tips and tricks.
Where are ticks found and is there a tick season?
Globally, there are nearly 1000 unique species of ticks, and they’re found everywhere across the United States.
Depending on where you live, ticks can be a pest at any time of year. Tick season, however, generally begins when the weather warms and dormant ticks begin to look for food — in most places in the U.S., that’s in late March and April. Tick season typically ends when the temperatures begin dropping below freezing in the Fall. In some moderate climates, like California, ticks are active throughout the year.
Are some ticks more dangerous than others?
Yes. Ticks go through stages in their metamorphosis from larva to adult. Of the tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease, immature ticks (or nymphs) most frequently cause infection. According to the CDC, adult ticks are much larger and more likely to be removed before transmitting the bacteria that causes infections like Lyme disease.
Most bites never create more than some swelling. But ticks are parasites and can transmit blood-borne diseases like Lyme disease, Babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Lyme disease can be transmitted by the blacklegged tick, which is found throughout the southeastern and eastern United States – like Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. If you’re looking for more location-specific information, the CDC offers informative summaries and geographic maps of tick populations.
How do you treat a tick bite?
If you find a tick that has freshly bitten and hung on to your skin, remove it with a tweezers as soon as possible. It’s a good idea to wash your hands and the area around the bite with warm water and soap, according to the Mayo Clinic. You do not need to bring the tick in to your primary care provider.
What happens if you can’t get the tick out? Ticks may burrow into your skin for up to 10 days before dropping off. It’s important to call your doctor if you can’t remove the tick or start to develop symptoms of a tick related illness in 3-30 days, such as:
- Body aches and joint pain
Do I need blood testing or antibiotics after a tick bite?
Antibiotic treatment for lyme disease is usually based on the history of a tick bite and symptoms. Lab testing may be ordered if the diagnosis is unclear, but is typically not necessary. Testing of the tick itself is not recommended as these results are unreliable, with frequent false positives and negatives.
In general, lab testing and treatment for lyme disease is not needed after a tick bite if you have no symptoms and the tick was removed within 36 hours.
However, per the American Academy of Family Physicians, tick bites should be treated with prophylactic antibiotics (doxycycline in a single dose) only when an engorged black-legged tick is acquired in a high-risk area for Lyme disease. Antibiotics are effective if given within 72 hours of tick removal.
How can I prevent tick bites?
There are some simple things you can do to reduce the risk of becoming host to a tick.
- Wear clothing that covers your legs and arms, especially when walking in rural, woodland, or grassy areas where ticks are most common
- Take a shower or bath after you’ve been in an area likely to have ticks
- Check your body for ticks, especially your armpits, your head, and your legs
For more information, Center for Disease Control has more information on high risk areas in the US and how to prevent tick borne illnesses. Ifyou have a tick bite and have any questions about removal or rashes, make an appointment today.
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