If you’ve been enjoying outdoor activities, you may have come across an area where ticks live, which is usually a wooded spot and has high grass. Ticks latch onto humans as they brush past them in the outdoors. You may not realize you have a tick on your body until you get home.
Many times, people find a tick because it is traveling on the body. You feel something moving on your skin, locate the insect, squeal, and immediately start trying to remove it from your body. While still in a frenzy, some grab the tick and flush it down the toilet, sink, or throw it outside. Then, they forget about it.
If symptoms arise in the following month, you may not think to tell your doctor you found a tick on your body. This can lead to a misdiagnosis of Lyme disease. If left untreated, Lyme disease can become chronic and debilitating.
There are simple steps you can take to prevent misdiagnosis, however. Keep reading to learn what to do if you find a tick on your body.
Reacting to a Tick On Your Body
Seeing a bug on your body can be alarming. However, it’s essential to remain calm so you can properly assess the situation. If a tick is still moving on your body, that means it has not bitten you yet. Ticks can spend hours or days searching for the right spot.
Once they find the spot, it takes them about 24 to 36 hours to fully break the skin and get to your bloodstream, which is where they transfer bacteria that cause infections like Lyme disease. Not all ticks are infected with Lyme, however.
All ticks do need warm blood to feed on for survival. Therefore, you must remove the tick as soon as you find it.
Tick Removal From Your Body
Removing a tick the right way can help your doctor reach an accurate diagnosis if symptoms arise. To remove a tick, follow these simple steps:
- Use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers.
- If the tick has embedded under your skin, grab the tick with the tweezers where the tick meets your skin. Get as close as possible to your skin. You want to remove the entire tick if possible.
- If the tick has not yet bitten you, use the tweezers to perform the tick removal.
- Save the tick by placing it in a zip lock bag, airtight container, or wrap it in tape.
- Clean the areas where the tick was active on your body.
If you are unable to remove the entire tick, seek treatment from your doctor. Leaving part of a tick can mean an infection will continue to get into your bloodstream. Once the tick removal has been complete, look for signs of infection. Over the next 30 days, pay attention to any new symptoms that may signal an infection like Lyme disease.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
The first month of symptoms will vary for each person, but commonly, a red bullseye rash may appear. This is a sure sign of Lyme disease. Other symptoms can include headaches, muscle pain, fatigue, joint swelling and pain, stiff neck, sweats, chills, fever, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes.
Take the tick to your doctor immediately so they will know to test for Lyme’s disease. They may decide to treat you with antibiotics as a safety measure while waiting for test results. They may also choose to send the tick away for testing. They can confirm if the tick is a deer tick that carries Lyme or another tick that can carry other bacteria.
About the Tests for Lyme Disease
Currently, there are two tests used by primary physicians to test for Lyme disease. The ELISA and Western Blot tests are very unreliable because they only test for antibodies of Lyme bacteria. The problem is that antibodies are not always active.
If they are inactive at the time of your test, your results will come back as negative for Lyme disease. However, you could still have Lyme disease. False negatives are too common.
Avoid Being Misdiagnosed
Lyme disease is called “The Great Imitator” because it resembles many other conditions, leading to many misdiagnoses. When left untreated, Lyme bacteria multiplies and spreads through your body, increasing negative symptoms. Inflammation becomes severe and can affect every part of your body, including your nervous system.
Other chronic symptoms include anxiety, major depression, extreme fatigue, bells palsy, arthritis, and brain and spinal cord inflammation. You may also experience heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and migraines.
Lyme Literate Doctors
It is highly recommended to seek an evaluation from a Lyme literate doctor who can analyze your blood under a microscope, combined with an assessment of your symptoms, to determine if Lyme disease exists.
If they find you have Lyme disease, they can treat your symptoms in their clinic with the most advanced equipment. Finding the right Lyme literate doctor is worth the effort. You deserve the most effective treatments that can offer symptom-free living.
Preventing Lyme Disease
While there is never a guarantee that you won’t get a tick bite, there are things you can do to reduce your chances. When heading outdoors, wear appropriate clothing for the activity you will be doing. If you are hiking in the woods, wear shoes, pants, tops, and hats that cover your body.
Use spray repellants on your clothing. They are safe to apply directly on your skin if you will be wearing shorts or sandals outdoors. You can even spray your pets with repellent since they also attract ticks.
Finally, do tick checks over your entire body, including private areas, immediately after returning from the outdoors. Tick check your pets too. Changing clothes and taking a shower soon after returning indoors are two additional preventative measures you can take.
If at any time you want to learn more about how to tick removal or testing for Lyme disease, reach out to a Lyme literate doctor. It’s their specialty.