No one likes finding a tick crawling on their leg or arm or, worse yet, latched onto their skin. It would be bad enough if the little bloodsuckers were harmless, but they can carry a number of severe and even deadly diseases. The best way to protect yourself from these is to know the facts about the diseases ticks carry, how to avoid ticks, and how to remove one if it has latched on.
Tick-Born Diseases in the United States
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), ticks in the United States carry a number of diseases, including:
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
- Q fever
- Colorado tick fever
- Lyme disease
- Powassan encephalitis
- Tick-Borne relapsing fever
- Southern tick-associated rash illness
You probably already knew that ticks could carry Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but you may not have been aware of some of the others. This list should be a pretty big eye-opener for anyone who’s ever thought that tick-borne diseases weren’t serious or thought, “They’re rare. It couldn’t happen to me.”
Fortunately, the early symptoms of most tick-borne diseases are very similar. If you’ve been bitten by a tick, and you experience any of the following symptoms within the next two weeks, seek medical assistance immediately:
- Stiff neck
- Joint pain and/or muscle/body aches
- Headaches or fever
- Unusual fatigue
- Rash (usually in the area of the bite)
- Facial paralysis
Removing a Tick
If you notice that a tick has latched onto your skin, you should remove it as quickly as possible. The less exposure time you have, the less like you will be to contract any disease the tick may be carrying.
With a pair of sharp, thin tweezers, firmly grip the tick by the head, as close as you can get to the skin. Do not squeeze. Rather, pull straight up away from your skin. Try not to bend or twist to avoid breaking off part of the mouth. If the mouth does break off, remove it with clean tweezers. Don’t worry if you can’t get all of it; just clean the area thoroughly with rubbing alcohol after removing the tick.
Remember to dispose of the tick properly and without crushing it, as this can expose you to bacteria or viruses.
Old wives’ tales tell us to paint the tick or suffocate it so that it will detach. This actually leaves you exposed to potential disease longer than if you just quickly and cleanly remove it. If you do develop symptoms within two weeks after being bitten, seek medical help and be sure to tell your doctor that you were recently bitten.