Tick-Borne Diseases: Signs, Symptoms, And Prevention

If you enjoy spending time in the great outdoors or have a beloved pet that ventures outside, you'll want to learn about tick-borne diseases. In addition to spreading Lyme disease, ticks can cause a host of other health ailments. Read here for more information.

Tick-Borne Diseases: Signs, Symptoms, And Prevention

Most people associate the arachnid known as the tick with Lyme disease. However, only the deer tick is the carrier of pathogens which can transmit Lyme disease to humans.

When it comes to tick-borne diseases, humans should be aware that they may not just carry Lyme disease. Ticks are also a host to various bacteria, viruses, and disease-causing microbes. When a tick decides to bite, it can readily transfer some nasty diseases or unwanted health conditions.

If you enjoy spending time in your yard, the woods, or have a pet, you will want to be cautious about ticks. Be prepared by arming yourself with knowledge. It is essential to learn how to identify the signs and symptoms of tick disease, and different types of ticks.

Additionally, it is valuable to learn first aid for tick removal and aftercare, and take preventative measures to reduce contact with ticks in the first place.

A tick bite is usually painless, so a host won't realize they have been bitten until it is too late. Ticks have a habit of climbing up, and under clothing, so they can find a place to bite where they won't be easily detected.

Especially if you spend time outside in the summertime when ticks are fairly active, it is critical to check your clothing and body for unwanted guests. Regarding most diseases spread by ticks, a host will have about 24 hours to remove a tick before they risk transmission of infection.

About Tick Season

tick borne diseases: dog and owner walking together

If you have concerns about tick-borne diseases, then it pays to learn more about ticks and when they are most active.

Ticks are most active in regions such as the mid-Atlantic, northeast, and upper part of the Midwest between March through the middle of May. Ticks are also quite active from the middle of August until November.

Although most ticks can be expected to cause more havoc for outdoor lovers in warmer weather, ticks are still active when it is cool. Freezing temperatures are not fatal to the tick, and if there isn't any snow or ice on the ground in winter, hikers and pets should beware.

Many ticks will often be found on a host animal. However, if a tick is not feeding, they may hide out nearby their host.

Anyone who has bats, rodents, or birds in their home may expect these animals to have ticks on their body.

Ticks like to hang out in forested areas, around piles of wood, tall grass, and around beaches. Some ticks, like the brown dog tick, can even survive in a dwelling for its entire life cycle. Owners of dogs and cats should be particularly vigilant.

Ticks will seek out a host by sensing for body heat, body odor, vibrations, or moisture.

How To Identify A Tick

tick borne diseases: black puppy

If you or someone you know has been bitten by a tick, it is essential to be able to identify the species of arachnid. Being able to readily identify a tick to determine what type of disease or pathogen it may carry can help save time.

Some ticks may only trigger nausea, chills, or a fever. Other ticks can trigger neurological problems, or can even cause a fatality.

There are a few species of ticks that people want to be more aware of when outdoors.

  • The black-legged tick or deer tick is responsible for Lyme disease
  • The Rocky Mountain wood tick
  • The American dog tick or brown dog tick

Regarding the Rocky Mountain wood tick, American dog tick, and brown dog tick, these three are responsible for transmitting Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Thankfully, there are resources available to help people identify a tick.

Typically, most ticks measure between 3 and 5 mm in length and commonly look like a poppy seed. Ticks may be either small, medium, or large depending on their age.

When a tick bites, it will stay on its host to feed for about 2 to 3 days. Certain ticks can transmit the disease anaplasmosis in as little as eight hours after biting. It is vital to be aware that a tick can carry three or more diseases at a time, as the arachnid moves up the feeding chain from mammal to mammal.

Humans are not the first source of food for a tick, as they often feed on birds, mice, rabbit, and deer.

Preventative Measures For Ticks

tick borne diseases: dog care tools

Reducing the chances of a human or animal acquiring a tick-borne disease requires taking preventative measures.

When going outside, it is beneficial to dress in clothing and shoes with tick repellant already integrated into the fabric. You can also wear clothing that is sprayed with tick repellant as well.

After going outside, it is important to do a check to make sure there are no ticks on your body, hair, or clothing. Family pets should receive a monthly treatment for ticks, and wearing tick repellent clothing when spending time outdoors is essential.

Check your pet after spending time outside on a daily basis.

After going camping or spending a long time out hiking and exploring, make sure to shower. Also, place clothing in a dryer on high heat to kill any ticks that may have decided to hitch a ride.

Signs Of Tick-Related Disease

There are various tick-borne diseases other than Lyme disease that is concerning.

A tick bite can transfer diseases such as Ehrlichiosis, Tick paralysis, Tick-borne encephalitis, Babesiosis, and Tularemia.

Symptoms of a tick-borne disease include, but is not limited to the following.

  • A headache and nausea
  • Muscle aches and joint pain
  • A stiff neck
  • Fever and a visible rash on the body

Lyme disease usually gives itself away with a bullseye mark. Rocky Mountain spotted fever displays red marks or crusted blackened skin at the site of the bite. With tularemia, an ulcer on the skin appears where the tick made its mark. Anyone who contracts ehrlichiosis may display a rash coupled with a fever.

Tick paralysis is rare, but it can often be confused for botulism. Once a tick is removed, flaccid paralysis goes away after 24 hours.

Red meat lovers should beware the Lone Star tick, as its bite can cause an allergy to red meat. When this tick bites a host, it transfers a sugar, alpha-gal into the bloodstream.

Since humans do not naturally have alpha-gal in their bodies, it triggers an extreme response by the immune system. Eating red meat following a bite from the Lone Star tick can cause the body to release histamines like crazy.

The Lone Star tick is also responsible for transmitting ehrlichiosis.

According to Prevention, the infections caused by bacteria carried by ticks, anaplasmosis, and ehrlichiosis cause similar symptoms. The infections may trigger fever, stomach pain, chills, confusion, and a headache. In the rarest cases, these infections may cause a rash to develop.

Regarding anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis, they are the second most transmitted tick-related disease.

Babesiosis is insidious because it rarely causes an exhibition of symptoms. After a bite from a black-legged or deer tick, most hosts feel okay. However, after a few weeks or months later, the microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells begins to rear its ugly head.

Red blood cells can be destroyed by babesiosis, and hosts can suffer fever, fatigue, body ache, and nausea.

How To Safely Remove A Tick

tick borne diseases: german shepherd outdoors

Preventing a tick bite is possible by reducing ticks in your yard, being careful in natural surroundings, and wearing protective clothing and repellant. However, in the event of a tick bite is vital to know how to remove a tick and provide aftercare.

Do not follow poor advice like attempting to suffocate a tick with vaseline, grease, or go after a tick with a lit match. The best way to remove a tick is to use a pair of pointed tweezers, and to go firmly for the had buried in the skin. It is important to be slow and steady when removing a tick, to prevent transmission of disease into the site.

Typically, if a tick is quickly removed from the host, the risk of disease transmission is quite low. Some diseases or symptoms passed on from a tick bite take 36 to 48 hours to transfer over fully.

A removed tick should be placed in a plastic bag for observation, to rule out that it has not caused transmission of Lyme disease. If a tick bite leads to inflammation, an allergic reaction, a rash, or other ailments, it is helpful to have the parasite handy for identification.

Some hosts will be administered antibiotics to clear up problems caused by ticks.

First Aid For A Tick Bite

tick borne diseases: dog taking a shower

After carefully removing a tick, making sure not to twist or squeeze the arachnid, place it in a jar or plastic bag for safekeeping. Do not try to remove a tick with bare hands, or use unsafe agents like a hot match or vaseline to remove.

Wash your hands after removing the tick, and wash the site where the tick bit. Use warm water and soap or iodine to clean the affected area of the skin. If the site of contact looks infected, or signs and symptoms of tick-borne diseases appear, get medical attention.

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