Lyme disease is the
most common vector-borne illness in the US. Approximately 20,000 new cases are reported to
the CDC each year and the CDC acknowledges that 90% of cases go unreported.
But did you know
that one tick may carry more than one disease, so sometimes people get
more than one co-infection from the bite of a single tick. The same tick that
carries the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, can also transmit other
illnesses. The most common are Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Bartonella, and Rocky
Mountain spotted fever (Rickettsia). Scientists recognize more than a dozen
tick-borne diseases in the United States and new ones are still being
discovered. It is estimated that up to 20% of the ticks with Lyme disease may
have one of these other diseases.
The symptoms of these coinfections are often nonspecific –
such as fever and headache – which makes diagnosis difficult and the treatments
for each may be different.
The best way to prevent any tick-borne illness this summer
is by taking the necessary precautions outlined below:
Avoid contact with wooded and
bushy areas with high grass. Walk in the center of trails.
The best protection you can
achieve is by using a repellent, that contains 20 to 30% DEET
(diethyltoluamide) for your skin and one that contains 0.5% Permethrin (a
synthetic pesticide) on your clothes, shoes, and socks. As well as on gear like
backpacks and tents. (Be sure to follow precautions on the package).
- Conduct a full-body
tick check using a hand-held or full length mirror. Ticks do not wash
off in the shower.
- Check children for
ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, the belly button, behind
the knees, legs, around the waist and especially in their hair.
- Ticks can hitch a
ride home—don’t forget to check pets and gear such as backpacks.
- Dry clothes
first—then wash. High heat for an hour will kill ticks.
- In the absence of
tweezers or a plastic tick spoon, use paper or cloth to protect the
fingers during tick extraction.
- Do not squeeze, crush or puncture the body of
the tick, since its fluids may contain infectious agents.
Using fine-tipped tweezers
If you find a tick, use
fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as
possible. Firmly grasp the tick as close to its head as possible, and pull
gently, using slow, steady pressure.
Using a plastic tick spoon
Some people find it easier to use
a plastic tick spoon specifically designed for tick removal. Slide the spoon
under the attached tick, fitting its mouth parts into the v-shaped notch. Then
hold the body of the tick down with your thumb, and gently roll the handle of
the spoon down, using leverage to pull the tick out. Do not twist, pry, or jerk
the tick, as this may cause the tick to break into pieces.
- After removing the
tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol
or soap and water.
- Dispose of a live tick by submersing it
in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag or wrapping it tightly in tape. Never
crush a tick with your fingers.
- Avoid misguided
practices, such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum
jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin—these methods do not
If you have a tick attached or
embedded for more than 36 hours, or have symptoms of a tick-borne disease such
as fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, a bulls eye shaped rash or joint
pain, report this immediately to your healthcare provider or CMC Urgent Care
603.314.4567; you can also make an appointment online: cmc-urgentcare.org.