By Russ and Tiña De Maris
If your travels take you to tick country, be on the lookout for these biting and often disease-carrying arachnids. Yes, ticks are more closely related to spiders! And just what areas of the U.S. have them? Lyme disease – a nasty tick-borne illness – has now been found in all 50 states. In fact, in 2018, researchers asked for folks to send in tick samples wherever found – and folks in 49 states responded – Alaska being the lone holdout.
Protecting yourself and your loved ones (including four-legged family members) is important. Here are some “tick tips” from Dr. Amanda Roome, an expert in these creatures with Binghamton University.
After a trip through nature, it’s a good idea to check for invaders that may have latched on. Take a long, hot shower, which will hopefully wash off any ticks that may be crawling around on you. Remove any embedded bugs as quickly as possible. Look for them when you’re in the shower. They like dark, moist areas, so be sure to check in armpits, behind your knees, the groin area, and in your hair.
Get ticked off!
After your shower, use a mirror and check your back or areas you can’t see well. If a tick has bitten you, grab a pair of tweezers, get as close to the skin as you can, grasp it firmly and pull it out. Has it has been attached for a while? It may be difficult to pull out (deer ticks secrete a glue-like enzyme which “cements” it to the host). If you detach the head from the body, that is okay.
Can’t get the nasty thing out? Don’t worry. Treat it like you would any other small wound – put some peroxide or rubbing alcohol on it and leave it be. Don’t use old-school methods (e.g., Vaseline, using a match, etc.). These tend to agitate the bug, and cause it to burrow a little deeper or, worse, cause it to regurgitate. You want tick regurgitation? Nah! The process may transmit any pathogens it may be carrying right into you! If you do remove the tick, be sure to keep it. But just because you are bitten does not mean you have been infected. Put it in a zip-lock bag with some rubbing alcohol.
Get thee to a doctoree
Take the tick – and yourself – to the doctor. They will be able to identify the species. Only the deer tick carries Lyme in the Northeast, but other species can carry other diseases, and the deer tick can carry more than just Lyme. The doctor may choose to send the bug out for testing. Your doctor will not test you for Lyme right after a suspect bite. If you got a pathogen, your immune system may take a few weeks to mount a response to it. And don’t forget, antibodies are not detectable right after a bite.
Listen to your doctor. If they get the invading bug tested, you may get treatment if the test comes back positive. Then you might be tested for Lyme (or another tick-borne disease) after your immune system has had enough time to mount a response and the antibodies are at detectable levels. Keep an eye out for potential symptoms of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, and consult your physician if you notice any of the symptoms.
Learn more about tick-borne illnesses from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Got pets? Read Are you ticked off by ticks?
Check out the Tick Twister on Amazon.