During the late spring and summer months, our offices in Toms River and Oakhurst get swamped with patients who have been bitten by ticks. But before you worry, know some of the basics not only about ticks and their nasty bites, but the best ways to protect yourself and your family from these notorious creatures.
Wooded, bushy areas with long grasses and vegetation make an ideal home for ticks. Ticks are not insects, but arachnids. They are parasites, feeding on the blood
of humans and animals, and as such, can transmit bacteria.
According to the Mayo Clinic, simple precautions will decrease the chances of being exposed to Lyme disease via tick exposure. Common sense is your best ally. Cover your bare skin, and use bug repellents with Deet concentrations of twenty percent or more. Don’t forget your clothing- it’s a great idea to apply products with permethrin (which is both an insecticide and a medication) to your apparel, or perhaps buy some pretreated clothing if you plan on prolonged exposure in wooded environments. Carefully check yourself, your children, and your pets for ticks. Deer ticks, which are carriers of Lyme, are often no bigger than the head of a pin.
It’s good news that ticks do not always attach immediately. Often, they can rest on your skin for several hours before beginning to embed themselves, so in the early stage of contact, there is an opportunity for quick and easy removal.
I’ve been bitten- now what?
Grab your tweezers, and take out the tick, grasping near its mouth or head. Do your best to pull it out, trying not crush it to ensure you get all of its parts removed. Clean the site with antiseptic. If the tick was attached to the body for less than 36 hours, the chances of being fine are good, though the person should go on antibiotics as a precaution. After 36 hours, however, it is highly advisable to seek medical treatment as the chances of contracting Lyme disease is much greater. According to the CDC, even before a fever, a bull’s eye rash may appear, usually within a 3-30 day window. The easily identified rash appears in approximately 70-80% of infected subjects, beginning at the site of the tick bite. Fatigue, fever, and body aches can also be associated with other tick-borne illnesses.
Don’t panic…but don’t assume you are immune
Not all ticks carry disease, and of those types which may carry a specific pathogen, not all are infected. Specifically, just because deer ticks can transmit Lyme, it doesn’t mean all deer ticks do.
Further, just because a person may have been bitten once, that person can still get Lyme or another tick-borne illness- and more than once, for that matter, if bitten in another instance. There are several different variations of ticks in our own New Jersey environs, namely in Ocean and Monmouth counties: the Black Legged tick (aka the notorious Lyme carrying ‘deer tick’), the Lone Star Tick, and the American Dog tick. The males, unlike their counterparts, don’t bite- but the nymphs (females) do. Black Legged Ticks are discernible by their tear shaped bodies with a red/orange abdomen and a black dorsal shield. The male is smaller and completely black while the female is more brownish in overall appearance.
Err on the side of caution if you or someone you care about was bitten by a tick. There is nothing like peace of mind. We’ll get you treated by one of our Board Certified Physicians here at Family First Urgent Care in either our Toms River or Oakhurst offices. Remember- at Family First, you’re family.