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Beware of These 4 Tick-Borne Diseases

August 21, 2018
Published in: First Aid, Infectious Disease

Close-up of a tick on clothing

It’s hard to believe that such a small creature can wreak such havoc, but tick-borne diseases are on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), tick-borne diseases have more than doubled in the last thirteen years. From avid outdoors lovers to people outside for their daily activities, everyone is at risk for a tick bite. Read on to learn more about the most common tick-borne diseases and how to prevent tick bites.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease. In fact, eighty-two percent of people with a tick-borne disease are diagnosed with Lyme disease. Lyme disease spreads when a tick that has bitten an infected animal transfers that bacteria to a human. Lyme disease is carried by blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks. Cases of Lyme disease are consistently spreading throughout the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

woman in bed with a headache reaching for a glass of waterSymptoms include:

  • Severe headaches
  • Neck stiffness
  • Rashes, often a red bulls-eye rash will occur around the bite
  • Severe joint pain and swelling
  • Loss of muscle tone or "drooping" on one or both sides of the face.
  • Heart palpitations
  • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
  • Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue

The onset of symptoms can occur anywhere from a few days to a few months and are unique to each individual. A two-step blood test can diagnose Lyme disease based on the time frame of the initial bite. The effectiveness of the treatment for Lyme disease also varies. Some patients respond well, while others experience debilitating chronic symptoms. Seeking immediate medical attention is imperative in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease.

Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis

Anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis are infections caused by bacteria in a tick bite. Anaplasmosis is more commonly spread by blacklegged ticks, while ehrlichiosis comes from the bite of a Lone Star tick. Anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis are the second-most common tick-borne diseases. Symptoms are similar for both diseases and include – fever, headache, muscle pain, fatigue, chills, stomach pain, nausea, cough, confusion, and sometimes a rash. Typically, symptoms occur within twelve days of a bite. The infections can be life-threatening for people with compromised immune systems. Your doctor can diagnose anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis with a blood test.

Alpha-Gal Allergy

Your love of steak and burgers may be a thing of the past if you get bit by a Lone Star tick. Why? Because Lone-Star tick bites can cause an allergy to red meat. A Lone Star tick can inject its victim with a sugar called alpha-gal that is only found in animals like cows, pigs, lamb, deer, and bison. Alpha-gal travels in your bloodstream and disrupts the immune system. When a person with an alpha-gal allergy tries to eat red meat, the body has an allergic reaction and releases chemicals that react with the alpha-gal.

The alpha-gal allergy can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms usually occur several hours after the consumption of red meat. A person with the alpha-gal allergy may be unaware that they’ve even been bitten by a tick, and symptoms are easily misdiagnosed because they mimic other diseases. The good news is the alpha-gal allergy can be diagnosed using a blood test and/or skin reaction test. Once diagnosed the condition can be managed using dietary restrictions and medications. It’s unknown how long the allergy lasts, but it’s not believed to be a chronic condition.

Alpha-Gal Symptoms include:
  • Runny nose or congestion
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Sneezing
  • Hives
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Anaphylaxis shock, a severe reaction that shuts down your body's ability to breathe

Bug Off

Couple hiking and reaching back to invite youTicks don’t have to ruin the great outdoors! Keeps ticks away with these practical prevention steps:

  • Use a bug spray that repels ticks.
  • Wear light-colored protective clothing.
  • Tuck pant legs into socks.
  • Avoid tick-infested areas like dense forests.
  • Check yourself, your children, and your pets daily for ticks and carefully remove any ticks.

Tick-borne illnesses are on the rise, and it’s important to educate yourself so you can stay safe. Remember to seek immediate medical attention if you experience a tick bite or have adverse symptoms.