Why do we need to protect ourselves from ticks?
Ticks are small parasitic animals in the same class as spiders, scorpions and mites, all having 8 legs. Ticks consume blood which they feed off of host animals including humans as well as common household pets like cats and dogs. Because they feed on blood, they can become carriers for certain bacteria that they obtain from one infected host animal, and then transmit to another host.
According to the CDC, there are many potential bacterial illnesses that can be carried, but the most common that we see, especially in the North Carolina region are Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), and Lyme disease.
The longer a tick is feeding on a host, the better the chances of contracting a potential infection, if that tick happens to be a carrier. If a tick is found quickly and removed, there is little to no chance of bacterial transmission unless the host has a compromised immune system.
Symptoms that develop combined with the area in which the tick bite occurred generally tells us which infection we are dealing with. Some of the most common symptoms of tick borne illnesses are fever and chills; fatigue, body aches, headache and occasional joint aches; and characteristic rashes. For example, a target rash nearly always indicates Lyme disease. These bacterial infections are treatable, but certainly prevention is most important. When camping or
playing outdoors in wooded areas, try to wear clothing that covers arms and legs, and use tick preventative products such as permethrin on clothing, and use skin repellents that contain products such as DEET. If these infections go untreated, sometimes serious complications can arise. Untreated Lyme disease for example can spread to the heart, joints and the central and peripheral nervous systems causing various conditions with long term complications, several days to even months after exposure.
Generally RMSF does not lead to long term complications. However, even the short term symptoms can be quite serious,
and thus we cannot stress the importance of preventative measures. And after spending the day outside, be sure to check your pets, take a bath or shower and inspect yourself and your children all over to ensure that ticks are found early and removed.
Please see the CDC website for many more details, and always contact your health clinician for