Last updated 05/04/2021
Beware tick season has already started. If you venture out to the woods you might discover a hitch hiker. Deer ticks and Lyme disease go together.
Deer hunting season in WI begins in September. But the ticks will be out in force through the warm months. (Celebrities with Lyme disease).
Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes and not for diagnosis. More details.
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Three Types of Ticks
In Minnesota there are three types; blacklegged (deer tick), American dog tick (wood tick) and Lone star tick (these are rarely found in Minnesota).
The deer population has grown along with the tick expansion. These areas where ticks live are changing due to reforestation, climate change and temperature extremes.
The ticks are more active during summer. This is mainly when bites occur and people are outdoors. Having a mild winter can bring ticks out earlier.
The black legged tick is now found in all states. It has also been found in Mexico and Canada. With warmer temperatures ticks have been migrating. They have even been found in US cities now a days.
Ticks and their Life Cycle
These nasty buggers have been around millions of years. There are over 800 different species. Ticks have a hard plate on their back (scutum) these are called hard ticks while a soft tick does not.
Ticks are related to spiders (arachnid family) and are parasitic, along with mites they are acari. They can’t fly or jump. Their mode of travel is grabbing with their claws and crawling on a host (kinda like Head Lice).
The life cycle goes through three stages. The larvae are tiny like grains of salt with six legs. The nymphs are the size of poppy seeds, while the adult is more like an apple seed with eight legs. The tick can live two to three years.
The larvae, nymphs and adults all require blood. The female usually causes more bites because the male dies after mating.
Commonly, ticks look for warm, moist areas that make it hard for us to see them. These areas are scalp, armpits, groin, skin folds and other hairy locations.
The tick feeds with its full mouth of hooks latched under the skin. It will burrow in part way with its back visible.
The tick can feed for days. When full of blood will usually be a blue-grey color. This is known as an engorged tick. If not found it will fall off at this point.
They don’t bite a number of times so there is one bite from that tick.
Some species can live about a year without a blood meal. A hard tick can feed for hours and days. If the tick transmits a disease it’s usually when they are full at the end of the meal. It may take hours for the hard tick to pass a disease.
A soft tick may feed for less than an hour. A disease can be passed in less than a minute. Some soft tick bites produce intensely painful reactions.
What Causes Lyme disease
The first cases of Lyme disease occurred about 1975 as children were afflicted in Lyme, Connecticut. It was thought to be rheumatoid arthritis. The bacterium that causes the disease wasn’t identified until 1982.
Deer ticks also called blacklegged ticks (hard ticks) and white-footed mouse ticks are known to carry Lyme disease.
Four main species of bacteria cause Lyme disease and the illness has spread over the world. Boorelia burgdorferi (BB) and Borrelia mayonii are connected with the US, while Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii are the main causes in Europe and Asia.
Stages of Lyme Infection
Early Localized Lyme
Early localized Lyme consist of flu-like symptoms:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Sore throat
- Usual bull’s eye rash.
The rash is not itchy or painful. It may become larger as the infection progresses. This may even appear on other sites if treatment was not begun right away.
Early disseminated Lyme
Early disseminated Lyme also consist of flu-like symptoms now including:
- Mild to severe muscle and joint pain
- Weakness or numbness of the limbs
- Changes in vision
- Heart palpitations and chest pain
- Rash and facial paralysis (Bell’s palsy).
Late disseminated Lyme
Late disseminated Lyme involves a late effect of the disease. This can happen weeks, months even years after the tick bite.
Symptoms may be:
- Severe fatigue and headaches
- Difficulties sleeping
- Mental confusion
Those who contract Lyme disease can feel fatigue without having a reason. If Post-Treatment Lyme disease Syndrome (PTLDS) should develop this brings the most extreme fatigue. Even when the bacteria are gone from the body, the effects may stay for many months.
There may be neurological problems also this can occur weeks, months even years after your infection. This may be meningitis (inflammation of the membranes around your brain) and muscle movement that is impaired. (Support groups).
Risk Factors for Lyme disease
Being near or in the woods or grassy areas for long periods of puts you at risk for Lyme disease. Deer ticks are mostly found in the Northwest and Midwest woodlands. Children and adults who spend a lot of time outdoors in these areas are especially at risk.
Having skin that is exposed makes it easy for a tick to latch on and bite. Wearing long sleeves and pants to protect yourself and the kids is wise in areas where ticks are common. And don’t forget your pets are at risk if going through tall weeds and grass.
Make a habit to check for ticks when in wooded areas. The longer the tick is attached to your skin (36 to 48 hours or more) the higher the chance the bacteria can enter your bloodstream.
Campers, hikers and people who work in gardens or parks are also at risk for Lyme disease.
Removing the Tick
You need to be really careful with removing them from your skin and getting a whole of the entire tick. They are sticky with that tough shell and can attach to your finger. My grandmother would just throw them in the wood stove and we would hear it pop.
To remove the tick ASAP gloves and tweezers are recommended. Gently grasp the tick where it is attached to the skin (the head and mouth) and don’t squeeze or crush it. This could force its stomach content into the bite and increase your chance of infection.
Gently and steadily pull the entire tick without twisting or turning (this could break off head). As with other insects you may have an allergic reaction to the tick bite.
You can tape it to a piece of paper for identification if needed in an area where ticks carry disease. You can drop it in alcohol or flush it down the toilet if you are not concerned. Apply an antiseptic to the bite area.
I would think that you could apply alcohol or Vaseline directly on the tick to smother it and get it to back out.
Lyme disease Diagnosed
Being diagnosed early gives the best chance to have complete recovery without any long term effects. There can be severe complications not getting diagnosed.
Test for Lyme disease will mostly check for the antibodies that respond to the infection. The accuracy of a blood test depends on when you became infected. Diagnosis is determined on symptoms and history of tick exposure.
The antibodies may take several weeks to develop. Being tested right away may not show Lyme disease, even if you have it. So you may need to repeat the test.
Deer ticks carry other pathogens causing anaplasmosis, enrlichiosis, babesiosis and rare but deadly Powassan virus.
Treatment for Lyme disease
Antibiotics are prescribed for the treatment. Usually, doxycycline is used with early stage Lyme infection. It is taken about 6 days to 3 weeks, amoxicillin and cefuroxime may be used for about 2 to 3 weeks.
In the late stage the patient may be given antibiotics orally or intravenously. An arthritis treatment may be included.
For post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome there is no treatment currently. Researchers are working on a vaccine.
Prevention of Lyme disease
Avoiding areas where deer ticks live is the best prevention against Lyme disease. This is by trees, shrubs and underbrush and areas with tall grass.
Cover your skin when outdoors in these areas by wearing shoes and socks. Tuck your pant legs in your socks and tuck shirt in. Limit exposed skin by wearing long sleeves, a hat and gloves.
Stay on Path
They can be found in tall grass. Stick to trails if you can. Keep the dog on a leash.
Use tick repellant and look for DEET of 20% or more. Apply to children avoiding their hands, eyes and mouth.
Follow directions carefully, be mindful that chemical repellants can be toxic. Products containing permethric can be applied to clothing or buy pretreated clothing.
Don’t Forget Yard
Tick-proof your yard by keeping grass mowed, clear brush and leaves away. Store your wood neatly in dry, sunny spots to keep rodents who carry ticks away. Acaricides can be used to kill ticks and mites in their habitat.
Always do a Scan
Check your clothing, yourself, your children and your pets all for ticks. You might not find them if you don’t search. Be vigilant if you’re spending time in or near wooded or grassy locations.
Wrapping it up
Deer ticks are small. They can crawl on your clothes or skin for hours before attaching themselves. Taking a shower once you’re indoors and using a washcloth might help brush them off.
Don’t think you are immune because you can have Lyme disease more than once.
Do you or do you know of someone with Lyme disease? How is this person now?
Header Photo by Steve from pexels
https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/ accessed 09/02/2020
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lyme-disease accessed 09/02/2020
https://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/arthritis-lyme-disease accessed 09/02/2020