Oh no, a tick!
June 16, 2014
In the United States, ticks are responsible for more human disease than any other insect. They are very good at this because they feed on a large variety of mammals, reptiles, and even birds. Six different tick-borne diseases have been reported in Missouri. They are Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease/Lyme-like disease, tularemia, Q-fever, erlichiosis, and southern tick associated rash illness. The mysterious Heartland virus is also thought to be spread by ticks. Confirmed cases of tick-borne illness must be reported to the Centers for Disease Control.

How ticks spread disease

Depending on the species of tick and its life stage, preparing to feed can take anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours. When a tick finds the perfect feeding spot, it grasps the skin and cuts the surface. Next, it inserts its feeding tube. If that sounds painful, well, it isn't because most ticks secrete a small amount of saliva that has anesthetic properties. So, the tick can attach without the person or animal feeling it. A tick will suck the hostís blood slowly over several days. During that time, it can either receive or transmit diseases. In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours to transmit bacteria.

Preventing tick bites

Obviously, avoiding contact with a tick means avoiding its habitat. One ups the odds for exposure by wandering into wooded or bushy areas with high grass or leaf litter and straying off of an established path when hiking. Using a repellant with at least 20 percent DEET is recommended. After being in an area where ticks are prevalent--or even, perhaps, just being in a grassy area like your backyard, carefully do a body check on those possibly exposed, including pets. Check your gear and your clothing that you might put in the dryer for at least an hour to kill any ticks you could have missed seeing.

Oh no, I have a tick on me! (How to remove a tick)

First of all, donít panic! Use a fine tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skinís surface as possible. Pull upward, with steady, even pressure

(Do not twist or jerk, because that can cause the tickís mouth parts to break off in the skin. If that happens and the mouth cannot be removed easily, leave it and let the skin heal.) Thoroughly clean the area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

Avoid folklore remedies such as ďpaintingĒ ticks with nail polish or petroleum jelly. The goal is to remove the tick as fast as possible and not wait for it to fall off.

Various diseases, the ticks that spread them, who is most at risk, what symptoms should one look for and what is the preferred treatment include:

This article was compiled by Ashley Taylor, Pharm.d., Meyer Orthopedic & Rehabilitation Hospital Pharmacy/CoxHealth, Springfield, MO. For more information contact the websites of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Missouri Dept. of Health and Senior Services.

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