TICK BITE BASICS
After recently reviewing many peer reviewed articles on tick bites and the diseases they can carry, I have summarized the information for our patients.
Please remember that you can always call us to discuss your particular situation.
We are happy to help you sort things out.
Here are some facts:
The latest information as of last summer is that 30% of the deer ticks in Albemarle County carry Lyme disease and 40% of deer ticks in Nelson County are carriers.
There are many types of ticks in the United States. The risk of developing infection related to a tick bite depends on the geographic location, season of the year, type of tick and for Lyme disease, how long the tick was attached to the skin.
The risk for acquiring a tick borne infection is quite low, even if the tick has been attached, fed and is actually carrying an infectious agent.
Ticks only transmit infection after they have attached and then taken a blood meal.
The deer tick that transmits Lyme disease must feed for approximately 12-24 hours before transmission of Lyme disease.
After a person is bitten by a deer tick, the health care provider will likely advise one of two approaches.
- Observe and treat if signs or symptoms of infection develop.
- Treat with preventative antibiotic immediately.
There is no benefit of blood testing for Lyme disease at the time of the tick bite, it takes two to six weeks for the blood test to show a positive result if the infection has been transmitted.
TICK BITE PREVENTION
Please be sure to do a tick check if you have been exposed.
Use careful coverage while in high likely exposure.
Tuck pants into socks, use insect repellant
Shower after exposure
Wear lighter colored clothing so ticks are easier to see
The clothes you wear on your hike can be put in the dryer on high heat for five minutes, ticks do not like dry high heat,
Chickens can be great for eating tick, especially guinea hens.
Ticks like a warm moist environment, they do not like the sun.
Check your animals for ticks.
Before seeking medical attention, carefully remove the tick from the skin.
Make note of its appearance.
The best removal tool is the “Tick Key” available at Blue Ridge Mountain Sports and online.
Using fine tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
Do not use any topical liquids or materials on the tick as they may cause the tick to act like a syringe and inject bodily fluids into the wound.
Pull backwards gently but firmly using an even steady pressure, no jerk or twist.
Do not squeeze, crush or puncture the body of the tick, since its bodily fluids may contain infection-causing organisms.
After removing the tick, wash the skin and hands with soap and water.
If any mouth parts of the tick remain in the skin, these should be left alone, they will be expelled on their own. Attempts to remove these parts may result in significant skin trauma.
After the Tick is Removed
Please make note of the size of the tick, whether it was attached to the skin, if it was engorged, and how long it was attached.
The size and color of the tick help to determine what kind of tick it was.
Ticks that are brown and the size of poppy seeds or pencil point are deer ticks. They can transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. They are common from Maine to Virginia and in the Midwest.
Ticks that are brown with a white collar and are about the size of a pencil eraser are dog ticks. These ticks do not carry Lyme disease but can carry rocky mountain spotted fever which can cause serious illness and can be fatal.
Ticks that are brown to black with a white splotch on their back are called Lone Star ticks and can spread an illness called, STARI. This can cause a rash like Lyme disease but no other Lyme like symptoms. This tick can also carry Ehrlichiosis, another tick borne disease which can cause severe symptoms such as high fever, headache.
Only ticks that have been attached and have finished feeding can transmit Lyme disease. After arriving on the skin, the tick that spreads Lyme disease usually takes 24 hours before feeding begins. At least 36-48 hours of feeding is required for a tick to have fed and then transmit Lyme disease. At this point, the tick will be engorged.
If a deer tick has been attached for more than 36 hours and antibiotics can be given within 72 hours of tick removal, your health care provider may recommend antibiotic prophylaxis with a single dose of Doxcycline of 200 mg. If you cannot take doxycycline, it is not recommended that you be treated with an alternative antibiotic due to lack of clinical data and low risk of infection rate.
Many people are concerned that if antibiotics are not given early, Lyme disease will be incurable. This is not true. Even later stages of Lyme disease can be treated effectively with antibiotics.
If you have been bitten by a tick, please be aware of any signs of rash, fever, joint pain, headache.
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