Tick encounters are rising due to climate changes and invasive species. When we remove wildlife habitats and replace them with residential and commercial structures, animals must find food, water, and shelter elsewhere. Some search near your home and learn to adapt well to living among humans.
Ticks feed on warm-blooded mammals. Ticks can attach to them wherever they go and enjoy a ride into your neighborhood. When you see deer, squirrels, raccoons, rabbits, and birds nearby, they may all carry ticks.
Because ticks transmit numerous bacterial infections that lead to diseases, you must understand ticks that bite and the related symptoms. Seeking treatment at the first sign of symptoms is critical to healing. Keep reading to learn the various ticks that bite humans and the tick bite symptoms to watch out for.
The Black-Legged Tick (Deer Tick)
The black-legged or deer tick may be the most well-known for spreading disease on the east coast. The western black-legged tick is on the west coast. They are specifically associated with Lyme disease. However, deer ticks can carry many bacteria simultaneously and transmit co-infections alongside Lyme disease.
Initial symptoms may include a bullseye rash, stiff neck, sore throat, fever, chills, sweats, and swollen lymph nodes. The longer you go untreated, the more symptoms worsen, including facial paralysis, depression, anxiety, cognitive difficulties, extreme fatigue, digestive issues, and more rashes.
Symptoms from a tick bite can make daily functioning difficult, interfering with personal, social, and professional activities.
The Lone Star Tick
If you see a tick with a white dot on its back, it could be the lone star tick. If bitten, you are susceptible to tick-borne relapsing fever, ehrlichiosis, tularemia, and Southern tick-associated rash illness (STAR). Many Lyme disease symptoms appear in these conditions, including feeling like you have the flu, joint pain, malaise, rash, and loss of appetite. You may also experience cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle aches. Tularemia may also affect the respiratory system.
American Dog Tick
Tularemia is also a possible infection transmitted by the American and brown dog ticks. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can also be transmitted. Initial symptoms include fever, rashes, headaches, fatigue, stomach pain, vomiting, muscle aches, and loss of appetite. The infection can damage blood cells and impact cognitive, mental, and respiratory functioning if left untreated.
Groundhog (Woodchuck) Tick
Groundhog ticks are mostly found along the Eastern United States and transmit the Powassan virus. Despite the name, groundhog ticks attach to and feed on many different mammals, including pets, squirrels, raccoons, foxes, and skunks.
Powassan virus symptoms are like Lyme disease symptoms initially. Later symptoms may include brain and spinal cord inflammation, leading to encephalitis or meningitis. These symptoms also occur in Lyme disease but in later stages.
Powassan virus can also lead to seizures, confusion, speech difficulties, and loss of coordination.
The Importance of Testing and Diagnosis
Getting an accurate diagnosis is a must. If your doctor tests you for Lyme disease and your test returns negative, request to be tested for all other tick-related infections. If your doctor refuses to do further testing, seek treatment from a Lyme-literate doctor. Do not stop searching until you find a doctor who understands tick bite symptoms and proper Lyme disease testing.
A Lyme-literate doctor can also give you specific guidelines on staying safe this season from tick bites like the ones below.
If you know you will be outdoors, pay attention to the surroundings. See if it is a natural habitat for ticks, which includes tall grasses, brushy areas, and thick weeds. Unmanicured lawns, hiking trails, and forests are havens for ticks.
Creating a safe outdoor experience means eliminating leaf litter and using wood chips or gravel to separate your lawn from areas ticks prefer. Also, do what you can to prevent rats, mice, and wildlife from coming near your home. They carry ticks, and when they eat from your garden or hide in a pile of logs or rocks, ticks may drop in that area.
Wear Appropriate Clothing
The clothing you wear outdoors creates a barrier between your skin and a tick. Ticks can travel around your body for over 36 hours, searching for the perfect spot to bite. The proper clothing can make it more difficult.
Wear long-sleeved shirts that are white or light in color so spotting ticks is easier. Wear long pants, socks, and closed-toe shoes. Ticks can find their way to any part of your body, whether by attaching directly to you or transferring from a tree branch, bushes, or animal to you.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends various tick repellents. Look for products such as DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, picaridin, or IR3535. Apply the repellent to your clothing, shoes, and gear.
To choose the right repellent, use the EPA’s online search tool, which factors in the time you will be outdoors, the insects from which you need protection, ingredients, and the company name you prefer.
Your local pet store can tell you about safe and effective repellents for dogs and other pets.
Perform Tick Checks
When you return after being in an area with ticks, check your body, gear, pets, and everything else that was outdoors with you. To check your body, look everywhere, even in the spots that are hard to see. Check your belly button, armpits, ears, and private parts.
An easy way to check for ticks is to take a warm shower. Washing your hair and body makes it likely that you will knock it off. Being in the shower makes it easier to check all those hard-to-reach places.
Don’t forget to check your pets all over too.
Encountering a tick does not have to end in receiving a chronic infection that interferes with your life. Using the guidelines provided, you can feel more confident spending time outdoors. Because prevention efforts do not guarantee that you won’t get a tick bite, knowing the symptoms allows you to seek help from a Lyme-literate doctor who can get you back to living your desired life.