Jessica Sheehy, P.A.-C.
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An increase in warm weather means more camping trips, hiking and other outdoor activities. It also tends to mean a surge in adult female and young Blacklegged tick populations, which are primary tick-borne disease carriers.
A tick-borne disease can be a serious illness. However, learning about tick-borne diseases and how to prevent them will help keep you healthy during peak tick season.
Types of tick-borne diseases and symptoms
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, people over the last decade have reported approximately 1,000 to 2,000 cases of tick-borne diseases to the MDH each year. The most common tick-borne diseases seen in Minnesota and Wisconsin are Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis and ehrlichiosis.
Common symptoms include fever, headache, irregular heartbeat and joint pain, and some patients infected with Lyme disease experience a circular rash. Those most susceptible to these symptoms are individuals with underlying immune system conditions.
There is a condition called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome. People who suffer from this were previously infected with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium – which causes Lyme disease – and were effectively treated, but they continue to experience residual symptoms for up to six months. These symptoms include joint pain, fatigue and muscle aches.
To prevent tick-borne diseases, you should check yourself, and those with you, for ticks after being in wooded or grassy areas. Ticks tend to find areas on the body that are prone to moisture, therefore checking areas such as the back of the knees and legs is very important.
Others measures that you can take to avoid ticks include:
- Keeping your lawn cut short
- Covering your arms and legs with long clothing
- Wearing bright-colored clothing to spot ticks more easily
- Wearing insect repellents containing DEET
Treating a tick bite
If you are bitten by a tick, understanding when it occurred and how long it has been attached to your skin is very important. Ticks usually need between 24 and 72 hours to effectively transmit any diseases they are carrying. It is recommended that people call their health care provider if they are unsure of when the tick exposure occurred, if they start to experience the previously mentioned symptoms after a tick bite and for instructions on how to properly remove a tick.
When tick-borne diseases are treated effectively and in a timely manner, most patients experience a full recovery. If left untreated, heart issues, long-term joint inflammation and neurological complications can occur.