Beware of Ticks: Signs and Symptoms of 6 Common Conditions from Tick Bites
Illnesses transmitted by bites from ticks, mosquitos and fleas have tripled in the U.S. from 2004 to 2016, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). During this period, 642,602 cases were recorded, 60 percent of which were due to ticks.
And some of the most common diseases and conditions from ticks are more than a nuisance: they can be life threatening, so it’s important to get medical attention if you experience any symptoms. Here are six infections on the rise, as well as measures you can take to protect yourself from them.
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1. Lyme Disease
A bacterial infection spread through blacklegged ticks, Lyme disease manifests as a rash that looks like a bullseye. If left untreated, it can produce flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, fatigue, headache, swollen lymph nodes and joint aches. The illness is potentially serious, as it can result in irregular heartbeat, nerve pain, facial palsy and inflammation of the spinal cord and brain. Lyme disease was responsible for the lion’s share of tick-borne infections in the CDC report.
2. Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis
Ehrlichiosis is transmitted by lone star ticks, while Anaplasmosis is transmitted by blacklegged ticks. Both bacterial infections can present signs that include fever, chills, malaise, muscle pain, nausea, headache, stomach pain, confusion and cough. A rash may occur, but this symptom is rare in both diseases.
3. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Several species of ticks may spread the bacteria that cause Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF). Early symptoms consist of fever, nausea, vomiting, headache, muscle pain, stomach pain and lack of appetite. The most common manifestation is a rash that develops two to four days after the time of infection, which makes the illness difficult to diagnose early. The rash differs, with some looking like pinpoints and others appearing splotchy and red. RMSF can advance swiftly and become life threatening. Complications include paralysis or damage that necessitates limb amputations. Even if you don’t have a rash, the CDC advises you to see a doctor immediately if you don’t feel well after being bitten by a tick or spending time in a wooded area.
A disease caused by microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells, babesiosis is usually transmitted by blacklegged or deer ticks. Symptoms may start a week following the time of infection but usually don’t develop until weeks or months later. They include fever, chills, nausea, body aches, body sweats and fatigue. Another disease with serious complications, babesiosis can cause unstable blood pressure, a very low platelet count and hemolytic anemia, which is the destruction of red blood cells. It can be fatal in people who have a weakened immune system and in those with serious health issues such as kidney disease or cancer.
5. Powassan Virus
Transmitted by a tick, Powassan virus (PV) produces illness a week to a month after the time of infection, but many people don’t show any signs. Symptoms involve fever, vomiting, headache, weakness, memory loss, seizures, loss of coordination, confusion and difficulty speaking. A potentially fatal disease, PV can cause inflammation of the meninges or brain.
A highly infectious bacterial disease, Tularemia is spread by wood, dog or lone star ticks. It has many forms, but two of the most frequently seen are ulceroglandular and glandular. Ulceroglandular produces a painful skin ulcer and swollen glands, typically in the armpit or groin. Glandular is similar but doesn’t produce an ulcer. A high fever may be associated with both forms. The severity ranges from mild to life threatening.
How to Protect Yourself from Tick Bites
The CDC advocates protecting yourself throughout the year but especially during the warmer months when ticks are most active. They recommend the preventive measures below:
- Avoid ticks by walking in the center of trails and staying out of brushy areas with high leaf and grass litter.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants to minimize exposure.
- Use a repellent that has at least 20 percent picaridin, DEET or IR3535 on exposed skin. Follow the instructions carefully, avoiding contact with your eyes, mouth or hands.
- Apply a product containing 0.5 percent permethrin to clothing and gear.
- Visit the website of the Environmental Protection Agency here to choose the repellant best for you.
- Shower quickly after coming indoors to find and wash off ticks on your skin.
- Do a full body check to make sure no ticks remain. Parents should check children, being careful to look under the arms, inside the navel, in and around the ears, behind the knees, around the waist, between the legs and in the hair.
- Check for ticks on gear and pets because the insects can attach to a person later.
- Wash clothing in hot water, and then tumble them dry on high heat for at least ten minutes or until dry.
- To remove a tick, use fine-tipped tweezers, and grab it as close to the skin as possible. Pull upward with gentle pressure, avoiding squeezing or twisting the tick.
- After removing a tick, wash the area and your hands with soap and water, an iodine scrub or rubbing alcohol.
- Don’t crush a tick with your fingers.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.