Ahhh, springtime in New Jersey means we get to play outdoors and enjoy the green grass and trees around us. Tick bites aren’t painful, but many can cause Lyme disease. May through July are prime “tick-birthing” seasons and a whole new crop of hungry ticks are on the hunt for their first dinner of the season. Get the facts about ticks (how to prevent them, how to remove them…and your next steps) so you know how to protect yourself this summer.
What Are Ticks?
Ticks are tiny parasitic arachnids (spiders) with brown, round bodies. They attach themselves to skin and feed on blood. The tick’s bloated body sits on top of the victim’s skin while its head is burrowed just under. Yup, they’re kinda gross, they can be dangerous…and their populations are booming.
Identifying a Tick
It is helpful if a patient can provide information about the size of the tick, whether it was actually attached to the skin, if it was engorged (full of blood) and how long it was attached. Saving the tick in a plastic baggie for future testing is also useful. A few different ticks to be aware of include:
- Deer ticks, also known as blacklegged ticks, are tear drop shaped. Females have a reddish orange abdomen and solid black shield. The male is smaller and a uniform black in color. They are approximately the size of a poppy seed or pencil point and may transmit Lyme disease.
- Dog ticks are oblong in shape and brown with a white collar. They are about the size of a pencil eraser and DO NOT transmit Lyme disease.
- Lone star ticks aren’t exclusive to Texas, as its name might imply. This type of tick is roundish in shape and is brown to black in color with a white spot on its back. They may be transmitters of STARI (southern tick-associated rash illness), which causes a rash similar to Lyme disease, but has no other similarities.
Tick Tips to Remember
- Female and nymphal ticks feed and can transmit diseases.
- Male blacklegged ticks (deer ticks) do not feed and do not transmit diseases (they do attack to hosts but do not need blood for egg production).
- Removing a deer tick within 24 hours greatly reduces the likelihood of Lyme disease transmission. Ticks can stay on your skin for days and even weeks; as they take in more and more blood, they become larger and engorged to the size of a marble.
- Not all ticks are infected; according to the CDC, on average, 20-50% of deer ticks are able to transmit diseases.
- Once removed, save the tick for later identification and testing.
- Don’t be afraid to get outside and get active…just take some personal precautions to provide the best protection from contracting tick-borne diseases (see below).
Cover Up to Prevent Tick Bites
- Wear light colored clothes so ticks can easily be seen and removed.
- Tuck pants into boots or socks to avoid ticks crawling up loose pant legs (they like dark, warm places on your body such as under your hairline, in your armpits and on your belly).
- Walk in the center of trails to avoid contact with grassy areas and shrubs where tick populations may be high.
- Use a repellant with DEET on skin which can provide protection up to several hours.
- Properly check yourself, others and pets if exposed to areas where ticks are likely located.
Removing a Tick
Grab the tick as close to the skin as possible and gently pull it out without twisting or jerking. Then wash your hands and the spot where you found it with good soap and disinfect the skin with rubbing alcohol.
Treatment after a Tick Bites
eMedical Urgent Care provides tick removal as well as blood work for diagnosis of Lyme disease and treatment of other insect bites. Antibiotics are commonly used for oral treatment of this inflammatory disease. Patients treated with antibiotics in the early stages of the infection usually recover rapidly and completely. Don’t hesitate to seek medical attention immediately for a tick bite; at eMedical Urgent Care, all walk-ins are welcome. Feel better knowing we’re here.
Stay tuned for another post on how to identify potential signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease.