Watch Out For Ticks
Thu, 5/03/2012 4:31 PM
What are ticks?
How can I be harmed by a tick?
What should I do if I am bitten by a tick?
Use tweezers to grasp the part of the tick that is closest to the skin. Apply steady upward pressure to pull the tick’s mouthparts from your skin. If you pull too hard, the mouth parts may break off. If this happens, you need to use the tweezers to pull out the remaining parts of the tick if possible.
Once the tick is removed, clean your hands and the area well with soap and water or rubbing alcohol. The saliva from the tick can be irritating and cause some redness and discomfort at the site. However, this does not necessarily mean the site is infected. Some diseases transmitted by ticks will result in a lesion or rash at the site of the tick bite but some do not. If you develop an abnormality of your skin in the area from which you removed the tick, consult your child’s pediatrician.
What illnesses can I get from a tick in this region?
Of note, Lyme disease is not transmitted in this region. The tick that could carry the disease, (Black Legged tick) is found in this region, but its feeding habits make it unlikely to transmit Lyme disease. The “bull’s-eye” rash at the site of the tick bite that occurs with Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness (STARI) is very similar to that seen with Lyme disease - these can be easily confused. This rash may be accompanied by fatigue, headache, fever and muscle pains. The cause of STARI is unknown. As it appears very similar to Lyme Disease, most physicians will treat this infection with antibiotics.
Ehrlichiosis is transmitted by the Lone Star tick in this region. The symptoms of Ehrlichiosis usually develop within 1-2 weeks after being bitten by an infected tick. There are many symptoms associated with Ehrlichiosis. These are similar to symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Patients with Ehrlichiosis have fever, chills, headache, malaise, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, red eyes, confusion and rash (not at the site of the tick bite).
These diseases can be difficult for physicians to diagnose because the symptoms overlap with many common, self-resolving, viral illnesses. It is important to note that not all patients have all symptoms and some people have very mild or no symptoms. Unfortunately, there is no test that your doctor can do to easily diagnose these infections so treatment must be started based on suspicion. The infection may be confirmed by doing a blood test 10-14 days after the diagnosis but this will not influence the decision to treat.
Treatment should never be withheld pending the results of a blood test. Severe Ehrlichiosis or RMSF infection can be fatal if not treated appropriately. Prompt treatment is associated with rapid resolution of symptoms. The appropriate treatment for Ehrlichiosis and RMSF is doxycycline for children of all ages. This is the drug recommended by both the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics. No other drug should be used to treat these infections.
Tularemia is a disease that can be transmitted by both the Lone Star tick and the Dog Tick. This disease is much less common than the others. While tick borne Tularemia can present in many ways, it may be associated with an ulcerated lesion at the site of the tick bite with or without a swollen lymph node nearby. If this occurs, you should see your child’s doctor.
How can I prevent myself from being exposed to these illnesses?
You can keep ticks off yourself and your family by avoiding wooded areas with tall grasses and staying on trails when hiking. Use insect repellents with DEET (20% or more) on exposed skin and Permethrin on clothing and gear. Wear long sleeve shirts and long pants tucked into socks to avoid contact of skin with ticks.
You should also do regular tick checks after coming in from outdoors. Particular areas to check include:
Also check your gear and pets because ticks can come into the home then attach to you later.
Please consult the CDC website for more information.
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