Watch out for Ticks: Preventing Lyme Disease
As the summer comes upon us and we venture out into the woods for hiking, camping, and outdoor sports with our friends and families, we probably aren’t thinking about ticks. Ticks are small insects that resemble spiders and live on deer, rodents, birds and even our pets! They are found in brushy or wooded areas near the ground, as they do not jump or fly, and they are most active in the summer months.
Ticks can be carriers of several different infectious organisms such as Borrelia burdorferii, the bacterial spirochete responsible for Lyme disease. Other tick-borne infections include Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Bartonella, Babesia, Erlichiosis and Anaplasmosis (to name a few!!). There are several species of ticks.
Early Lyme disease is characterized by a ‘bull’s eye’ red rash spreading out from a tick bite. Symptoms may be mild and flu like, with headache, fever and joint pains, and often goes unrecognized or dismissed. The rash is not always present, noticed or remembered after the fact, nor is the tick bite history. If diagnosed properly early on, the infection can be treated quickly and effectively. If left untreated, early Lyme can progress to a more serious disseminated form with several complications affecting many body systems (neurological, cardiac, arthritic, etc) which results in a chronic condition often misdiagnosed and very difficult to treat.
When ticks bite, they attach themselves to their ‘dinner host’ and feed gradually over several hours or days, becoming engorged with blood. This leaves plenty of time for bacteria in the tick to enter and infect the host. If the tick is not removed properly, the likelihood for developing infection is increased.
There are a few approved methods for tick removal, it is best to avoid folk remedies in this situation. The best method for tick removal is the string and straw method developed by Dr. Ernie Murikami and can be viewed on YouTube.
The CDC recommends using fine-tipped tweezers and slowly pulling upward with steady even pressure, careful not to twist or jerk (which may break off the mouth parts of the tick—if this does happen, remove the mouth parts with tweezers as well). Tick removal kits are available in the camping department of your local store.
If you find an attached tick, remove it as quickly as possible using the correct technique or have your doctor remove it for you. Save the tick in a plastic bag or vial with a wet cotton ball. The tick can be sent to IgeneX lab in California for testing, or if several ticks are found, they will test up to 20 at a time.
We can help prevent tick-bite when in a high risk area by staying on the beaten path, wearing protective clothing and tucking pants into socks when hiking, and by using natural insect repellents such as tea tree and eucalyptus oil. Always check for ticks on yourself, your kids and your pets.
If you have any further questions or concerns regarding Ticks, Lyme Disease, or other tick –borne infections please contact Dr. Julie Moore ND.