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Is it just me, or does it seem like there are more insect-borne diseases to be aware of?

Maybe it was the innocence of youth, but I don’t remember being overly concerned about things like ticks and mosquitoes growing up.  Don’t get me wrong, I had my share of mosquito bites, and since most of my time was spent playing outside with my dog, it was inevitable that I would end up with a tick crawling around on me at some point during the summer.

I really didn’t think much about it then but as I have gotten older I have become more aware of the dangers of ticks and diseases they spread.

Most of us have heard of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a tick-borne disease.  Ticks that cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever are infected with the organism Rickettsia rickettsii.  When the infected tick attaches to your skin, the infection can be spread to your bloodstream. The symptoms of infection are not easy to identify because they initially mimic those of other illnesses.  Symptoms can include high fever, chills, headache, nausea, and confusion.  A rash is possible too, though it doesn’t show up right away.  Identified early, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can be treated with antibiotics successfully.  However, left undiagnosed, it can cause significant long-term complications.

Alpha-Gal Allergy is another disease that is triggered by tick bites, specifically from the lone star tick, which commonly found in the eastern and southeastern United States.  Alpha-Gal is a carbohydrate that is present in cells of many of the animals that humans eat, but is also present in ticks.  Researchers believe that a tick bite can trigger an autoimmune response in some people to alpha-gal, causing the body to fight against the carbohydrate.  The symptoms of the allergy can be as mild as a headache or a runny nose after eating meats or can be life-threatening by causing anaphylaxis, shutting down your bodies ability to breathe.

Lyme disease is another common disease spread by tick bites.  The symptoms of Lyme disease, like several other tick-borne diseases, are easily confused with the symptoms of other issues.  The most common are flu-like symptoms, rashes, and a small, red bump at the site of the tick bite.  According to the Mayo Clinic, ticks generally need to be attached for 36-48 hours before an infection occurs, so a careful check each day to make sure you haven’t been bitten will go a long way in preventing Lyme Disease.

There are some easy steps to help prevent tick bites, especially if you are going to be outside or in wooded areas for long periods of time.

  • Be sure to cover up. Long pants and long sleeved shirts will do wonders.  They will also help prevent sunburns.
  • Use personal insect repellents. Products that utilize DEET are helpful for areas of exposed skin.
  • Stay on paths when hiking. Usually, the brush isn’t as thick on a well-worn path making it much harder for a tick to hitch a ride on your body.
  • Keep your lawn mowed. Tall grass and areas of brush or leaves are great hiding places for ticks.
  • Insecticide Applications. Correctly timed and applied insecticide applications can help to control populations of ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, chiggers and a wide variety of other insects.

Don’t let the fear of ticks or the nasty diseases they transmit keep you from enjoying the outdoors.  Take the proper precautions and check yourself after being outside.  Know the symptoms and when in doubt, check with your doctor.


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