Preventing Tick-borne Illnesses
Deer ticks (also known as Ixodes scapularis) carry more than Lyme disease. There are at least four infections one could get if bitten by a deer tick: Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, and Powassan disease.
Symptoms of Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis and Babesiosis are very similar and include fever, headaches, body aches and sometimes a skin rash. Powassan disease is more distinct as it can cause meningitis and encephalitis, which causes fevers, headache, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties and seizures.
Preventing tick bites is the primary way to prevent tick-borne infections.
What are some preventive steps?
There are a number of preventive steps you can take. When you go outside, be as covered as possible with long sleeves and pants. Using insect repellant containing DEET can greatly reduce the risk of getting a tick bite. Also, do daily checks when you come in from outside to make sure you don’t have any ticks on you. Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and walk in the center of trails. You could also wear clothing that has been treated with permethrin (a plant-based insecticide that works on contact.)
What to do if you find a tick on you?
First, it’s important to do regular tick checks when you come in from outside—scan your body for ticks and take a shower to make sure you wash away ticks that haven’t latched on yet.
How do you remove an attached tick if you find one?
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause parts of the tick’s mouth to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove tick’s mouth with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal. Contact your doctor if there are any signs of infection.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
- Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
What to do if you develop symptoms of infection?
After any tick exposure, you should monitor for symptoms of infection. If you develop any symptoms listed above within several weeks of removing a tick, call your doctor and be sure to tell them about your recent tick bite.
If you do not recall having been bitten by a tick, but you notice that you have symptoms consistent with any of the tick-borne diseases, then you should call your doctor. There is treatment available for Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis and Babesiosis.
For more information about tick-borne diseases visit the Centers for Disease and Control website: https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/diseases/index.html.