Tiny, Tenacious, Terrible Ticks

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Published on: May. 2, 2005

Last revision: Nov. 17, 2010

the wrists and ankles by the fifth day. The rash spreads to other parts of the body, including palms of hands and soles of feet. It is essential to see your physician if such symptoms occur. A delay in seeking medical attention can cause serious complications and possibly death.

Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete bacterium. Lyme disease is currently considered the number one arthropod-borne disease in the country. The deer tick is considered to be the main carrier, but the lone star tick is also suspected.

Lyme disease is difficult to diagnosis because its early symptoms mimic the flu. These symptoms include fatigue, headache, stiffness or pain in neck, muscles or joints, fever and swollen glands. An expanding circular or oval-shaped red rash or bump may appear at the site of a tick bite within two to 32 days and become a spreading red ring or bull's-eye. Treating the disease in its early stage with antibiotics is essential. If untreated, damage to joints and nervous system can occur, including arthritis, chronic pain, numbness and cardiac abnormalities.

Ehrlichiosis is a more recently recognized tick-borne disease caused by the bacterial species Ehrlichia. The bacteria is primarily spread by the lone star tick, but the deer tick and the American dog tick are suspected carriers. Early symptoms of ehrlichiosis are tiredness, high fever, muscle aches, headache and, in some cases, a rash that appears five to 10 days after a tick bite. The disease attacks the blood cells and is usually treated with antibiotics.

Other tick-borne diseases include tularemia, babesiosis, relapsing fever and the little-understood tick paralysis.

Because timely treatment is essential for tick-borne diseases, it's important to monitor yourself for unusual symptoms following any tick bite. Especially look for flulike symptoms or rashes that occur within several days after a tick bite. Report such symptoms to your family physician.

Tick Bite First Aid

You cannot contract a tick-borne disease unless a tick bites you, or you come in contact with tick body fluids through your mouth or eyes, or through a skin cut. Even if a tick bites you, promptly removing the tick diminishes the potential for disease transmittal.

Don't just grab the tick and pull it out. Squeezing the rear portion of its body may force the tick to inject body fluids into your flesh. Besides, you should avoid touching the tick with your bare hands because some fluids may enter your system through small cuts.

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