While most of us in the Middle Tennessee area enjoyed the milder, warmer winter it was not without some negative effects. Due to a dramatic increase in the tick population, illnesses caused by tick bites are being reported at an alarming rate according to the Tennessee Department of Health.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is the most serious illness from a tick bite and, left untreated, can be fatal. Cases in Tennessee are up more than 500% over last year. Symptoms usually appear between 2 and 14 days after a tick bite and can mimic the flu with fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle and joint pain and diarrhea. One telltale symptom to look for is a rash.
Lyme Disease is another common illness transmitted by ticks and, if allowed to progress, can cause severe neurological and joint problems that can persist for years. The most common sign is a circular rash that often appears between 3 and 30 days after a bite and appears in a bull’s-eye pattern around the bite area. Other common symptoms include fatigue, fever, headache, muscle and joint aches and swollen lymph nodes.
Here are some tips from the Tennessee Department of Health to avoid tick bites:
• Wear light-colored clothing to help spot ticks on clothes.
• Tuck pants into socks to keep ticks off legs.
• Repellents containing permethrin can be sprayed on shoes and clothing and will last for several days. Repellents containing DEET can be applied to skin, but must be reapplied every few hours.
• Search entire body for ticks upon return from a potentially tick-infested area.
• Check children for ticks, especially hair and scalp, when returning from potentially tick-infested areas.
• Be aware that ticks may also be carried into the home on clothing and pets.
• Reduce tick habitats around the home by removing leaf litter and brush.
Here are some tips for removing a tick provided by the Center for Disease Control:
Remove a tick from the skin as soon as it is found. Use fine-tipped tweezers to firmly grasp the tick very close to the skin. With a steady motion, pull the tick’s body away from the skin. Then clean the skin with soap and warm water. Throw the dead tick away with household trash.
Avoid crushing the tick’s body. Do not be alarmed if the tick’s mouthparts remain in the skin. Once the mouthparts are removed from the rest of the tick, it can no longer transmit Lyme Disease bacteria. If the tick is accidently crushed, clean the skin with soap and warm water or alcohol.
Don’t use petroleum jelly, matches, gasoline, nail polish, or other products to remove a tick.
Cases of both Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease have been discovered when no tick bite was noticed so be sure to be seen by a health care provider if any of the above symptoms occur, even in absence of a known tick bite.
Julie Tomsett is a published author and the office manager at GracePointe Healthcare; a direct-pay family practice and full service travel medicine clinic located in Cool Springs. www.gracepointehealthcare.com