With the season of Summer being upon us, it is inevitable that we will find ourselves spending more and more time outside and in the great outdoors. However, when doing this, you need to be careful. This is true no matter if you are taking a leisurely walk through a field or taking your pet dog out through sand dunes because ticks can be found pretty much anywhere.
Despite their very small size, these tiny bugs are a danger that both humans and their pets should do their best to avoid. This is because they carry lots of different diseases and so if bitten by one, it could leave you or your beloved doggo in pain and feeling unwell.
One of the most common types of disease that ticks carry is something called lyme disease; there is also babesiosis, anaplasmosis, powassan virus, ehrlichiosis, and borrelia miyamotoi.
Are tick bites dangerous?
A disease carrying tick may cause you or your pet to become unwell. However, how badly you suffer is dependent on a number of different factors. These include the following things:
- Stage of illness – how long you have been infected has a direct impact on the severity of the disease transmitted. This is something that’s particularly true for the likes of lyme disease. For the vast majority of individuals, it presents itself (during the early stages) as nothing more than a rash appearing on the skin in the shape of a bullseye. If, however, you are not quickly diagnosed and treated for the disease, it can progress to more severe stages. The disease will then develop into your joints causing arthritis, into the heart causing carditis, and into the brain causing Bells’ palsy or meningitis.
- Immune system health – those people who are immunosuppressed, really old, or really young may suffer more from a disease transmitted from a tick bite. When it comes to babesia and anaplasma, the symptoms are actually very similar to one another. For instance, they include aching joints, fatigue, night sweaters, chills, and fever. Both of the diseases impact blood cells – babesia attacking the red blood cells and anaplasma attacking white blood cells. For healthy people who are diagnosed quickly, these infections are usually pretty mild. However, for those people who are less healthy, they can be much more serious. In the worst cases, they can cause shock, respiratory disease, and liver or kidney damage.
An increase in cases
Over the last ten years, there has been a marked increase in the number of tick borne diseases being transmitted to humans and their pets. This is backed up by various reports produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is believed that the reason for this is due to better reporting and diagnosis by medical professionals, in addition to an increase in the real prevalence of these diseases.
Tick burden is also increasing and is known to be spreading to those areas where lyme disease was not endemic previously. With the combination of a greater level of awareness, more exposure to the bugs, and a boom in the population of animal hosts, there is an increased concern about illnesses caused by ticks.
How to keep yourself protected
There are a number of things that can be done in order to prevent being bitten by a tick. These include the following things:
- Heat – immediately after being in the great outdoors, take off all of your clothes and put them into a clothes / tumble dryer (if you have one). The reason for doing this is that the heat will kill off any ticks that are attached to them, thus preventing them from biting you the next time you wear them.
- Checks – the best way to stop yourself from being bitten by a tick is by performing a full and complete scalp and skin check. Do this to not only yourself but to anyone else you were outdoors with also. This may include children and pets. Doing this allows you to instantly identify any ticks that are present and immediately take action.
- Showers – if you have been in an area that is high risk for ticks, you need to take a shower as soon as you get back indoors. Doing this will allow you to do a full skin check and gently dislodge any ticks that are attached to you.
- Permethrin – this strong tick repellent is sprayed directly onto your footwear and clothing, and will kill ticks as soon as they come into contact with it. However, do avoid spraying it directly onto skin or animal fur. You need to wait until the repellent is completely dry before wearing any treated items.
- Bug repellent – make sure that when heading outdoors that you liberally apply a good quality insect repellent that contains DEET. In the same way you put on sunscreen, the repellent should be put on all exposed parts of your skin.
Failing all of the above things, you can always opt to use an all natural organic tick control instead.
What to do if bitten by a tick
The action that you need to take after being bitten by a tick is dependent on how long it was attached to you for and whether or not it is engorged. If it is engorged, then this is a clear indication that it has been feasting on your blood.
A tick on your skin that is not embedded or engorged and has been there for under 24 hours poses practically no threat to you or anyone else. There is very little chance that it has passed on a tick borne disease.
However, if the tick on you is engorged and has been there for greater than 24 hours, then you should call your doctor immediately to seek their advice. In most instances, they will offer you a course of prophylactic antibiotics, e.g. doxycycline. This works to stop lyme disease from occuring. This only works for lyme disease though and not for any other disease the tick may have been carrying.