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Deanna Markley, PA-C
Beware the Deer Tick
Generations Family Practice

Beware the Deer Tick

Warmer weather means that we need to be on the lookout for ticks that can transmit Lyme disease. Lyme disease is the most common arthropod-borne illness in the U.S., but is often misdiagnosed and incorrectly treated.

Not all ticks carry Lyme disease. The disease is mainly transmitted by the deer tick or black-legged tick. Although dogs and cats can contract Lyme disease, there is no evidence that they spread the disease directly to their owners. However, they can bring infected ticks into your home or yard.

Deer ticks vary in size based on their stage, but they can be the size of a sesame seed and are brownish in color. Once a tick latches onto a person, it typically climbs until it reaches a protected area, such as the back of the knee, groin, navel, armpit, ears, or nape of the neck, where it inserts its mouthpart into the skin. Generally, if you discover a deer tick attached to your skin that has not yet become engorged, it has not been there long enough to transmit Lyme disease. It is believed a tick needs to be attached for 24 hours to transmit the disease.

If you have found a deer tick embedded into your skin, one of the first symptoms of Lyme disease is often an expanding rash that looks like a bulls-eye. This rash may occur in approximately 70% of all cases. Typical onset is within three to 30 days of the bite. Other symptoms may be mild, such as joint pain, chills, fever, and fatigue.

Since early symptoms do not appear serious, people may not seek medical attention. As the disease progresses, symptoms become more debilitating. They may show up years after a tick bite and can include severe headaches, arthritis and swelling of joints, cardiac issues, and cognitive mental disorders. Treatment is more effective the sooner it begins after the tick bite. Early treatment often results in a full cure, but the cure rate decreases the longer treatment is delayed.

Please see your primary care doctor if you think that you have symptoms of Lyme disease. An in-office evaluation is vital. You can take steps to prevent Lyme disease when you're outdoors by wearing enclosed shoes and light clothing; use insect repellent containing DEET; avoid sitting on the ground or on stone walls; and do a final, full-body tick check at the end of the day.

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