What has eight legs and a nasty bite?
Did you guess spiders?
That’s not what we’re talking about this time. Today we are talking about TICKS. Ticks are related to spiders and mites but unlike spiders, ticks can carry diseases. Some of the more common diseases that you might have heard of are Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF). There are also other diseases that we sometimes see in Ohio such as Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, and Ehrlichiosis.
Did you know that different types of ticks carry different types of diseases? Let’s talk about the types of ticks we see in Ohio, the types of diseases they carry, and what the symptoms of those diseases are.
One of the more common ticks that we see are called American Dog Ticks, sometimes referred to as wood ticks. The highest risk of being bitten by this type of tick occurs in the spring and summer. The American Dog Tick is known to transmit both Tularemia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Most times, the adult female is known to bite. The Brown Dog tick, which can be found worldwide is also common in Ohio. It can also transmit RMSF, but their main host is usually that of a dog.
Another common tick found in Ohio is that of the Blacklegged tick. The highest risk of being bitten by this type of tick is in the spring, summer, and fall, but they are also known to search for hosts in the winter when the temperature is above freezing. This tick transmits several different diseases including Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis, and Powassan Virus Disease. Both nymphs and adult females are likely to bite humans.
The last type of tick that we find in Ohio is the Lone Star Tick. This type of tick can be very aggressive, with the saliva being irritating and can sometimes cause discomfort at the site of the bite. This type of tick is known to transmit Ehrlichiosis, Heartland Virus, Tularemia, and Southern-Tick Associated Rash Illness. Both nymphs and adult females bite humans and transmit diseases.
Now that we’ve discussed the different types of ticks in Ohio and the illnesses that they can transmit, let’s talk about the types of symptoms that these illnesses can cause. Some of the most common symptoms associated with tick-related illnesses are fever/chills, aches and pains, rashes, and sometimes even gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia).
Some of these tick-borne illnesses can cause severe illnesses if not treated. For example, in Lyme Disease a person can experience severe headaches, rashes in places other than the site of the tick bite, arthritis and joint swelling, heart problems, inflammation of the brain, and nerve pain. Needless to say, it is very important to see your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms after a tick bite. A good practice is to write on a calendar any time you get a tick bite. Monitor yourself for about a month for any of the symptoms above, as some of them can take up to 30 days for symptoms to start.
How do you properly remove a tick if you’ve been bitten? If you find a tick on you, you want to remove it promptly. Ignore any folklores that have you leave the tick on your body. First, use fine-tipped tweezers and grasp the tick as closely to your skin as possible. Pull upward with a steady, even pressure, avoiding any twisting as this can cause the mouth parts to break off and remain in your skin. If the mouth parts do break off, attempt to remove them with the tweezers. After you remove the tick clean the area thoroughly with soap and water or rubbing alcohol. You should dispose of the tick by putting it in rubbing alcohol, placing it in a sealed container, wrapping it in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.
Don’t want to have to bother with removing ticks from your skin and watching your calendar in case you start feeling sick? You can often prevent ticks from biting you in the first place by using an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. Before you go into the woods, you can treat your gear ahead of time such as boots, pants, socks and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin. You can take a shower soon after being outdoors, and you can thoroughly check yourself for ticks, especially under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and on the hairline and scalp.
For more information and tips on stopping tick bites, visit CDC.gov/Ticks.
Mikie Strite, MPH, is the regional Epidemiologist who serves Meigs County.