Due to the alarming amount of ticks of all types and the rising number of Lyme disease cases in Wisconsin, Bucky’s would love to inform you on proper tick removal and warning signs of Lyme disease.
According to The American Lyme Disease Foundation, Lyme disease (LD) is an infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of bacterium called a spirochete (pronounced spy-ro-keet) that is carried by deer ticks. An infected tick can transmit the spirochete to the humans and animals it bites. Untreated, the bacterium travels through the bloodstream, establishes itself in various body tissues, and can cause a number of symptoms, some of which are severe.
D manifests itself as a multisystem inflammatory disease that affects the skin in its early, localized stage, and spreads to the joints, nervous system and, to a lesser extent, other organ systems in its later,
disseminated stages. If diagnosed and treated early with antibiotics, LD is almost always readily cured. Generally, LD in its later stages can also be treated effectively, but because the rate of disease progression and individual response to treatment varies from one patient to the next, some patients may have symptoms that linger for months or even years following treatment. In rare instances, LD causes permanent damage.
Although LD is now the most common arthropod-borne illness in the U.S. (more than 150,000 cases have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] since 1982), its diagnosis and treatment can be challenging for clinicians due to its diverse manifestations and the limitations of currently available serological (blood) tests.
The following is a checklist of common symptoms seen in various stages of LD:
Localized Early (Acute) Stage:
- Solid red or bull’s-eye rash, usually at site of bite– most people with Lyme disease do not have a rash!
- Swelling of lymph glands near tick bite
- Generalized achiness
Early Disseminated Stage:
- Two or more rashes not at site of bite
- Migrating pains in joints/tendons
- Stiff, aching neck
- Facial palsy (facial paralysis similar to Bell’s palsy)
- Tingling or numbness in extremities
- Multiple enlarged lymph glands
- Abnormal pulse
- Sore throat
- Changes in vision
- Fever of 100 to 102 F
- Severe fatigue
- Arthritis (pain/swelling) of one or two large joints
- Disabling neurological disorders (disorientation; confusion; dizziness; short-term memory loss; inability to concentrate, finish sentences or follow conversations; mental “fog”)
- Numbness in arms/hands or legs/feet
If you think you have LD symptoms you should see your physician immediately. The EM rash, which may occur in up to 90% of the reported cases, is a specific feature of LD, and treatment should begin immediately.
Even in the absence of an EM rash, diagnosis of early LD should be made on the basis of symptoms and evidence of a tick bite, not blood tests, which can often give false results if performed in the first month after initial infection (later on, the tests are more reliable). If you live in an endemic area, have symptoms consistent with early LD and suspect recent exposure to a tick, present your suspicion to your doctor so that he or she may make a more informed diagnosis.
If early symptoms are undetected or ignored, you may develop more severe symptoms weeks, months or perhaps years after you were infected. In this case, the CDC recommends using the ELISA and Western-blot blood tests to determine whether you are infected. These tests, as noted above, are considered more reliable and accurate when performed at least a month after initial infection, although no test is 100% accurate.
If you have neurological symptoms or swollen joints your doctor may, in addition, recommend a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test via a spinal tap or withdrawal of synovial fluid from an affected joint. This test amplifies the DNA of the spirochete and will usually indicate its presence.
Prevention & Control
Larval and nymphal deer ticks often hide in shady, moist ground litter, but adults can often be found above the ground clinging to tall grass, brush, and shrubs. They also inhabit lawns and gardens, especially at the edges of woodlands and around old stone walls where deer and white-footed mice, the ticks’ preferred hosts, thrive. Within the endemic range of B. burgdorferi (the spirochete that infects the deer tick and causes LD), no natural, vegetated area can be considered completely free of infected ticks.
Deer ticks cannot jump or fly, and do not drop from above onto a passing animal. Potential hosts (which include all wild birds and mammals, domestic animals, and humans) acquire ticks only by direct contact with them. Once a tick latches onto human skin it generally climbs upward until it reaches a protected or creased area, often the back of the knee, groin, navel, armpit, ears, or nape of the neck. It then begins the process of inserting its mouthparts into the skin until it reaches the blood supply.
In tick-infested areas, the best precaution against LD is to avoid contact with soil, leaf litter and vegetation as much as possible. However, if you garden, hike, camp, hunt, work outdoors or otherwise spend time in woods, brush or overgrown fields, you should use a combination of precautions to dramatically reduce your chances of getting Lyme disease:
First, using color and size as indicators, learn how to distinguish between:
|Deer tick larva (top),
nymph (right) and adult (left).
Lone star tick.
Then, when spending time outdoors, make these easy precautions part of your routine:
- Wear enclosed shoes and light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily
- Scan clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors
- Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails
- Use insect repellant containing DEET (Diethyl-meta-toluamide) on skin or clothes if you intend to go off-trail or into overgrown areas
- Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls (havens for ticks and their hosts)
- Keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening
- Do a final, full-body tick-check at the end of the day (also check children and pets)
When taking the above precautions, consider these important facts:
- If you tuck long pants into socks and shirts into pants, be aware that ticks that contact your clothes will climb upward in search of exposed skin. This means they may climb to hidden areas of the head and neck if not intercepted first; spot-check clothes frequently.
- Clothes can be sprayed with either DEET or Permethrin. Only DEET can be used on exposed skin, but never in high concentrations; follow the manufacturer’s directions.
- Upon returning home, clothes can be spun in the dryer for 20 minutes to kill any unseen ticks
- A shower and shampoo may help to remove crawling ticks, but will not remove attached ticks. Inspect yourself and your children carefully after a shower. Keep in mind that nymphal deer ticks are the size of poppy seeds; adult deer ticks are the size of apple seeds.
Any contact with vegetation, even playing in the yard, can result in exposure to ticks, so careful daily self-inspection is necessary whenever you engage in outdoor activities and the temperature exceeds 45° F (the temperature above which deer ticks are active). Frequent tick checks should be followed by a systematic, whole-body examination each night before going to bed. Performed consistently, this ritual is perhaps the single most effective current method for prevention of Lyme disease.
If you DO find a tick attached to your skin, there is no need to panic. Not all ticks are infected, and studies of infected deer ticks have shown that they begin transmitting Lyme disease an average of 36 to 48 hours after attachment.Therefore, your chances of contracting LD are greatly reduced if you remove a tick within the first 48 hours. Remember, too, that nearly all of early diagnosed Lyme disease cases are easily treated and cured.
To remove a tick, follow these steps:
- Using a pair of pointed precision* tweezers, grasp the tick by the head or mouthparts right where they enter the skin. DO NOT grasp the tick by the body.
- Without jerking, pull firmly and steadily directly outward. DO NOT twist the tick out or apply petroleum jelly, a hot match, alcohol or any other irritant to the tick in an attempt to get it to back out.
- Place the tick in a vial or jar of alcohol to kill it.
- Clean the bite wound with disinfectant.*Keep in mind that certain types of fine-pointed tweezers, especially those that are etched, or rasped, at the tips, may not be effective in removing nymphal deer ticks. Choose unrasped fine-pointed tweezers whose tips align tightly when pressed firmly together.
Then, monitor the site of the bite for the appearance of a rash beginning 3 to 30 days after the bite. At the same time, learn about the other early symptoms of Lyme disease and watch to see if they appear in about the same timeframe. If a rash or other early symptoms develop, see a physician immediately.
Finally, prevention is not limited to personal precautions. Those who enjoy spending time in their yards can reduce the tick population around the home by:
- keeping lawns mowed and edges trimmed
- clearing brush, leaf litter and tall grass around houses and at the edges of gardens and open stone walls
- stacking woodpiles neatly in a dry location and preferably off the ground
- clearing all leaf litter (including the remains of perennials) out of the garden in the fall
- having a licensed professional spray the residential environment (only the areas frequented by humans) with an insecticide in late May (to control nymphs) and optionally in September (to control adults).
There are many other dangerous infections that can be transmitted by various types of ticks. To view the co-infections associated with Lyme please visit http://www.lyme-symptoms.com/LymeCoinfectionChart.html
For more information please visit
Thank you for taking the time to learn the proper way to protect yourself and your loved ones from Lyme disease and other tick borne illnesses.
Please pass on your knowledge so others can be informed also!