Keep a Lookout for Symptoms from Tick Bite This Summer
By Mark Schmiedl, MD, emergency medicine
Have you checked yourself or your child for tick bites lately?
If you haven’t already heard, this summer is a particularly booming year for tick populations across the country and in the state of Ohio. A black-legged tick (AKA deer tick), the kind that sometimes carries Lyme disease, was spotted just to the east of us in Vermilion earlier this summer. And Ohio is on the list of 24 states that contains counties with newly documented populations of deer ticks.
Tick bites are common. Some people are unaware of a tick bite at first. Be sure to check yourself and your children often, especially throughout the summer months when tick populations grow. Ticks are especially attracted to warm, moist areas of the skin like armpits, groins, or hair. Once they bite you, a tick may stick around drawing your blood for up to 10 days. The sooner you spot and remove a tick, the better.
Odds of Catching Lyme Disease from a Tick Bite
The chance of catching Lyme disease from an individual tick ranges from roughly zero to 50 percent. Risk of contracting Lyme disease from a tick bite depends on three factors: the tick species, where the tick came from, and how long it was biting you. That’s why the sooner you can remove the entire tick, the lower your chances of contracting a tick-borne disease.
Where we live makes a difference in these odds, too. We live in the upper Midwest, and unfortunately for us, a recent study found that up to 50 percent of blacklegged ticks are infected with Lyme disease. The Centers for Disease Control, however, state that it takes a tick 36 to 48 hours attached to the skin to transmit symptoms from tick bites and tick-borne disease.
Whether or not that timeframe is true, I can’t say for sure. But I can say that Lyme disease is preventable, and taking a proactive approach to avoiding tick bites can save you a lot of aggravation. If you do spot a tick on yourself or your child, take them to the doctor or Firelands Regional Medical Center QuickCare, where they may be prescribed antibiotics. You can even opt to have the tick tested for Lyme disease.
Most of the time tick bites are harmless and symptoms from tick bites are rare. However general symptoms from tick bites include:
- Pain or swelling on the bite site
- Burning sensation on the bite site
Whether or not you decide to have a tick tested for tick-borne diseases after it’s removed, keep a lookout for anything unusual. Symptoms from tick bites with tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease include:
- Red spot or rash near the bite site
- Full body rash
- Neck stiffness
- Muscle or joint pain or achiness
- Swollen lymph nodes
How to Remove a Tick from the Skin
If you see a tick crawling on your skin, and if it bites you, the best thing to do is get rid of it safely. Use a pair of tweezers to clench the tick as close to your skin as possible. Pull up with the tweezers using gentle yet steady pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tweezers, because these motions can cause part of the tick to break off and leave the rest in the skin. After removing the entire tick, use rubbing alcohol or soap and water to clean the tick bite.
Some people attempt to get the tick to come out on its own, rather than remove the tick with tweezers.They may use heat or “paint” the tick with petroleum jelly or nail polish to try to get it to come free. I do not recommend these strategies. The quicker your can safely remove the entire tick, rather than waiting for it to come out on its own, the lower your odds of contracting a tick-borne illness such as Lyme disease.
If you have trouble removing the tick, or you experience tick bite symptoms such as a rash, fever, or other health problems, schedule an appointment with your doctor or visit Firelands QuickCare.
Don’t stress too much about a tick bite or symptoms from tick bites until you talk to a doctor. Yes, it’s true that Lyme disease transmission via ticks has spread to all 50 states and is more prominent in the upper Midwest, but remember: not all ticks carry tick-borne diseases. Just take extra precautions to avoid tick bites and keep a closer watch for tick bite symptoms this summer.
Dr. Mark Schmiedl has been on the staff at Firelands Regional Medical Center since 1986, and is board-certified in Emergency Medicine. He is the medical director of Firelands Regional Medical Center QuickCare, located at 5420 Milan Rd (Rt. 250) near the Walmart/Park Place Plaza in Sandusky.