According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, tick borne illnesses have more than doubled in the last two decades. In 2019, over 50,000 were reported by local health departments across the United States. But researchers at Harvard say this number is not accurate. They note that there are likely ten times as many tick borne illnesses.
The problem with underreporting comes from misdiagnoses and because people do not seek treatment for their symptoms. Also, many people aren’t aware of the many illnesses other than Lyme disease directly caused by bacterial infections transmitted from ticks.
Tick Borne Illnesses Explained
Each infection is transmitted the same way via an infected tick that attaches to your body, bites you, and gets into your bloodstream.
Symptoms may or may not include a rash, flu-like symptoms such as chills, fever, and sweats. You may also have headaches, sore throat, stiff necks and joints, and swollen lymph nodes. You can see how easy it is for doctors who don’t specialize in tick borne illnesses to misdiagnose symptoms.
The fact that tick borne illnesses like Lyme disease are on the rise makes prevention and intervention efforts even more crucial.
Reasons for the Rise in Tick Borne Illnesses
There is not a single reason for the rise in tick borne illnesses, but rather multiple. One is climate change. Ticks go dormant in freezing temperatures. Some researchers believe the global warming effect makes it possible for ticks to stay active longer, giving them more opportunities to reproduce.
Ticks go dormant at freezing temperatures. Also, when temperatures are warmer, more people are participating in outdoor activities. Active ticks meet active outdoor people.
Another reason is people today are traveling more. Well, except for the times when restricted by the pandemic. As more people travel to other parts of the country, whether for vacations or to live, they take ticks with them.
Finally, suburban development is happening everywhere in the United States. We cut down forests, where ticks should live, and replace trees with homes, offices, shopping malls, and more. The ticks have nowhere to go, along with the local wildlife. For example, it’s becoming more common to see deer roaming neighborhoods.
Deer are carriers of infected ticks. When the deer enters your yard, it can leave the tick in the grass in your backyard. You mow the yard, and the tick finds you, but not before it has reproduced and laid eggs.
One of the best ways to avoid a tick borne illness is to implement prevention tactics to stay safe.
Prevention of Tick Borne Illnesses
You don’t have to avoid the outdoors to protect yourself from a tick borne illness. Prevention methods are simple. It just takes a few extra minutes of preparation before and after you go outside.
One prevention method is to dress for the occasion. If you plan to hike in the woods, you want to cover your body with protective clothing. Closed-toed hiking shoes, long pants, long sleeve shirts, and hats. Clothing puts a barrier between you and the tick, making the tick work harder and longer getting to your skin. This gives you more time to find the insect and remove it before it bites.
Another tip is to spray your clothes and body with tick repellant. They are safe, and fortunately, they work. Spray your shoes, pants, and shirts.
Don’t forget your pets. Ticks search for warm-blooded bodies, any bodies, including your pets. If a tick latches onto your pet and they bring it indoors, it can transfer to you. Do frequent tick checks on both your pet and yourself.
Tick checks are done best in the shower, but that doesn’t mean you have to take multiple showers a day. Instead, take a few minutes to check your body, especially areas that tend to be moist. Finally, if you have been outdoors for a while, change clothes when you go back inside. Ticks that are still on your clothing will not make it through a hot wash and dry cycle.
What to Do If You’ve Been Bitten?
Prevention efforts are not a guarantee. If a tick has bitten you, take these specific steps:
- Remove the whole tick, especially the head.
- Save the tick in an air-tight container. If you don’t find a tick, that’s okay.
- Watch for symptoms. Check for a rash that can appear anytime over the next thirty days.
- If a rash appears, seek treatment immediately. Be aware that not everyone will get a rash.
- Document any new symptoms. If you notice flu-like symptoms, seek treatment right away.
Finding the Right Treatment Provider
A big problem with tick borne illnesses is that most general doctors do not test for all diseases, only Lyme disease. Another problem is the inaccuracy of the Lyme disease test. False negatives happen too often because the tests are only designed to test for Lyme antibodies, not the infection itself. Antibodies can go dormant. If dormant when you are tested, you will receive a negative result. However, you may still have a tick borne illness.
Lyme-literate doctors are specialists in tick borne illnesses. They are the ones to seek out if you think a tick has bitten you. They have modern testing methods and modern equipment to provide numerous advanced treatments.
You can avoid misdiagnosis and, ultimately, chronic tick borne diseases by working with a Lyme specialist. For example, Lyme Mexico Clinic is a leader in treating infectious diseases like those involving ticks.
Traveling outside the United States should not be a deterrent when it comes to eliminating negative health symptoms. You deserve the best treatment, no matter where the clinic is located. At a minimum, call Lyme Mexico Clinic. They can explain the advanced treatments available and the steps of the procedures. Ask questions about tick borne illness, has fast you will see results, costs of treatments, and the doctor’s contributions to the study of Lyme. Give yourself this gift of healing.
Reviewed by Dr. Omar Morales, MD