Ticks Can Suck the Fun out of Summer

The mild winter has meant an extra number of ticks this spring. They can do more than just bug you.

"Any tick can carry some type of tick-borne illness," said Dr. Steve Crouch of Pediatric Care.

The tick disease most people worry about is Lyme disease. It's carried by the smaller deer tick. If you get a tick bite and develop a red, slightly raised rash that expands to at least five centimeters, and gets a clear center, see a doctor.

"That's the earliest sign," said Dr. Crouch. "At that point, if you get treated, you'll abort the rest of the illness."

Untreated, Lyme disease may lead to fatigue, muscle aches, and fever several weeks later.

Those symptoms will develop more quickly if a tick bite leads to Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Dr. Crouch said the rash for Rocky Mountain spotted fever is more generalized. It will appear along with fever and muscle aches within a few days to two weeks.

Left untreated, Dr. Crouch said both illnesses can have serious long-term complications. With Lyme disease, arthritis and memory loss are a risk. Rocky Mountain spotted fever can lead to death.

Dr. Crouch said prevention is the best medicine. Check yourself and your children for ticks every time you come in from the outdoors. He said if you find and remove them early, chances are you won't catch any disease because ticks usually need to be attached 48 to 72 hours before disease is transmitted.

Even with the concern, the illnesses are relatively rare. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reports 26 cases of Lyme disease from 2000 to 2002. Only three cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever were reported in that same time period.

If you find a tick, use tweezers to pull it off and wash your hands with soap and water. Then, next time you head outdoors, wear a bug spray with DEET to keep the pests of summer from spoiling your fun.

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Lyme Disease

    Lyme disease was named in 1977 when arthritis was observed in a cluster of children in and around Lyme, Connecticut.

  • Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi.

  • The bacteria are transmitted to humans by the bite of infected deer ticks and cause more than 16,000 infections in the United States each year.

  • In the United States, Lyme disease is mostly localized to states in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and upper north-central regions, and to several counties in northwestern California.

  • Individuals who live or work in residential areas surrounded by tick-infested woods or overgrown brush are at risk of getting Lyme disease.

  • Persons who work or play in their yard, participate in recreational activities away from home such as hiking, camping, fishing and hunting, or engage in outdoor occupations, such as landscaping, brush clearing, forestry, and wildlife and parks management in endemic areas may also be at risk of getting Lyme disease.


  • Black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) are responsible for transmitting Lyme disease bacteria to humans in the northeastern and north-central United States.

  • On the Pacific Coast, the bacteria are transmitted to humans by the western black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus).

  • Ixodes ticks are much smaller than common dog and cattle ticks. In their larval and nymphal stages, they are no bigger than a pinhead.

  • Ticks feed by inserting their mouths into the skin of a host and slowly take in blood.

Prevention and Treatment

  • Avoid Tick Habitats: Ticks favor a moist, shaded environment, especially areas with leaf litter and low-lying vegetation in wooded, brushy or overgrown grassy habitat. Avoid entering these areas particularly in spring and summer when nymphal ticks feed.

  • Use Person Protection Measures: Wear light-colored clothing so that ticks can be spotted more easily and removed before becoming attached. Also Wearing long-sleeved shirts and tucking pants into socks or boot tops may help keep ticks from reaching your skin. Applying insect repellents containing DEET can also reduce the risk of tick attachment.

  • Perform a Tick Check and Remove Attached Ticks: The transmission of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease from an infected tick is unlikely to occur before 36 hours of tick attachment. For this reason, daily checks for ticks and promptly removing any attached tick that you find will help prevent infection. Embedded ticks should be removed using fine-tipped tweezers.

  • Taking Preventative Antibiotics After a Tick Bite: In most circumstances, treating persons who only have a tick bite is not recommended. Individuals who are bitten by a deer tick should remove the tick promptly, and may wish to consult with their health care provider.

Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease

  • Lyme disease most often presents with a characteristic "bull's-eye" rash, accompanied by nonspecific symptoms such as fever, malaise, fatigue, headache, muscle aches and joint ache.

  • The signs of early infection usually occur days to weeks after the appearance of a solitary "bull's eye" lesion.

  • The most common manifestation of Lyme disease is intermittent swelling and pain of one or a few joints, usually large, weight-bearing joints such as the knee.

  • Infrequently, Lyme disease may be severe, chronic, and disabling.

  • Lyme disease is rarely, if ever, fatal.

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/lyme/ (The Centers for Disease Control Lyme Disease Web site) contributed to this report

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