Ticks which carry Lyme here in Maryland are back–and we may be in for the worst tick and Lyme season in history. Due to the unusually warm, wet winter we experienced, some tick experts are predicting we are on the verge of a new public health emergency from Lyme disease.
A recent PBS article explains that “all these little patches of forest dotting the Northeast have basically turned into Lyme factories, spilling over with infected ticks.”
According to the CDC’s Kiersten Kugeler, “In the Northeast, most people catch Lyme around their homes,” she says. “People out gardening. People playing in their backyard. Mowing the lawn.”
You can do a lot to help protect yourself and your family. Read this article and share with your friends and family. Preventing tick borne illnesses like Lyme disease is much easier than treating it!
The kind of ticks that carry Lyme are pictured to the right. Although the nymph ticks are tiny, the adult deer tick is still small. In fact, in up to 50% of cases of confirmed Lyme disease, the victim never even saw a tick.
Keep in mind: Ticks can attach to any part of the human body but are often found in hard-to-see areas such as the groin, armpits, and scalp.
How to Safely Remove a Tick
The first and most important step is to know when to look for ticks. Anytime you or your kids are coming in from gardening, cutting the lawn or playing outdoors, you should be checking.
“A serious, involved and focused check, for both adults and kids, whenever they come indoors–even from your own yard — is so important. Get treated early if you do have a tick bite. Prevention is so much easier than treatment–always.” —Dr. Michael Freedman of Evolve Medical.
Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible to grasp as close to the surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure.
- Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin.
- If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- Clean the bite area — and your hands with soap and water.
- Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.
- Never crush a tick with your fingers.
Other ways to remove ticks, such as using a hot match head or painting the tick with nail polish, gasoline, or other materials, are not advised. Such treatments can cause the tick to release more fluids back into the bite.
What does the Rash of Lyme Look Like?
Lyme disease symptoms can be grouped by early (within 3-30 days after a tick bite) and late (days to months after the tick bite). The rash of Lyme occurs in 80% of infected people, usually at the site of the tick bite within 3-30 days. It is circular, warm but not usually painful.
- Red expanding rash (bullseye or solid)
- Flu-like symptoms:
- Muscle aches
- Bells (Facial) Palsy
- Swelling of a large joint (such as knee)
- Severe neck stiffness or headache
- Additional expanding red rashes (bullseye or solid)
- Heart palpitations or irregular heart beats
- Dizziness or shortness of breath which comes and goes
- Shooting pains, numbness or tingling in hands and feet
- Problems with short-term memory
- Pain in tendons, muscles, joints, and bones which comes and goes
Lyme in Maryland
Lyme disease has dramatically increased over the last 3 decades from near zero to at least 38,468 cases. The CDC estimates that actual cases of Lyme may be around 300,000.
At the same time, the risk for Lyme is not spread evenly in the US. In fact, the image on the right shows that most of the risk is from Maryland through New England (and parts of Wisconsin/Minnesota).
Most Important: Prevent Tick Bites
Most of us get our ticks close to home–often in our own backyard. The idea that you only need to protect yourself or check the kids after hiking in the woods will cause people to miss a lot of ticks.
How To Avoid Tick Bites?
Check out these 13 simple tips:
- Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Walk in the center of trails.
- Repel Ticks with DEET or Permethrin
- Use repellents that contain 20-30% DEET on exposed skin and clothing.
- Use products that contain permethrin on clothing.
- Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin.
- Remains protective through several washings.
- Pre-treated clothing is available and may be protective longer.
- Find and remove ticks from your body.
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within 2 hours).
- Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror.
- Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in ears, belly button, behind knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
- Examine gear and pets.
- Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs.
- Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.
What to do after a tick bite
Lyme disease is not usually transmitted within the first 36-48 hours hours of tick attachment. The likelihood of
transmission is increased if the tick is engorged and/or has been attached for at least 72 hours. If you have had a tick bite, Dr. Freedman says, “Get seen right away. It’s easier to take 2 tabs of Doxycycline than to deal with Lyme disease later.”
Risks: More Than Just Lyme Disease
According to the Global Lyme Alliance, there are at least 15 different diseases carried by and given to humans, including anaplasmosis, babesiosis, borellia, bartonella henselae (aka cat scratch disease), ehrlichiosis, Bourbon virus and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. The most serious tick-borne disease is Powassan encephalitis, a viral brain infection that causes seizures, aphasia, muscle weakness, dementia, and even death. Below are a few of the other tick-related illnesses that have been found in Maryland more and more regularly over the last decade.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF)
- Rash of RMSF spreads from hands/feet toward the trunk.
- Rash varies greatly from person to person in appearance, location, and time of onset.
- About 10% of people with RMSF never develop a rash.
- Rash begins 2-5 days after fever starts
- Rash spreads from hands/feet toward the trunk.
- The red to purple, spotted rash of RMSF is usually not seen until the sixth day or later after the fever.
Making this diagnosis is very important as RMSF is a serious illness that can be fatal in the first eight days of symptoms if not treated correctly, even in previously healthy people, according to the CDC.
Ulcer forms at the site of bite and is accompanied by swelling of lymph glands, usually in the armpit or groin. There are several different types of symptoms depending on the infected area and these range from Typhoidal (generalized) to primarily involving eyes, lungs, throat or skin.
Number of Ehrlichiosis cases has risen dramatically in the last 15 years.
According to the CDC, the kind of tick that carries Ehrlichiosis has not been clearly established. In fact, 50% of people who are diagnosed do not even recall a history of a tick bite. Further, “Ehrlichiosis” is term broadly applied to several different kinds of bacteria (Ehrlichia chaffeensis, Ehrlichia ewingii and Ehrlichia muris-like.)
The illness of Ehrlichiosis usually begins around 1-2 weeks after the tick bite. Rash occurs in only 30% of adults (up to 60% of children) Rash is similar to RMSF and may appear after the onset of fever.
Symptoms associated with this Ehrlichiosis include the following:
- Muscle pain
- Nausea / Vomiting / Diarrhea
- Conjunctival injection (red eyes)
For additional resources, consider visiting the CDC’s website on Lyme disease and/or the Anne Arundel Department of Health’s website on Lyme disease which was just updated Feb 2017.
If you have any questions or have been experiencing any of the above symptoms, see your primary care physician immediately or visit Evolve Medical. Same day scheduling on-line here or call 844-322-4222. Or email them at [email protected].