How something as small as the period at the end of this sentence could mess up your life.

Ticks and What You Should Know Even in Winter Months
February 2, 2017

“Well, at least you’ve got your health!”

Being happy and living a good life – that’s what everyone wants, right?  Striving for a happy and fulfilling life is really the most important thing there is.

But how do you find your good life?  Well, starting from the basics, it helps if you are healthy.

Most of us realize that, and we know we should take care of our health.  We know we should exercise and eat right.  We have learned about the damage that stress can cause, and we’re learning how important it is to get enough sleep.

All of these are very important, and can help us stay healthy and able to enjoy life to the fullest.  But there’s something else you should be aware of, to safeguard your health.

A tick-borne disease can upend your life.

Part of the good life for many of us is enjoying the outdoors.  Getting outside for exercise, for gardening, for sports, or just for hanging out with friends – that’s our idea of fun.  Being outdoors and appreciating nature is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health.

Unless you get bit by a tick.

Tick-borne diseases don’t get as much coverage as more general health advice, and let’s face it, not too many folks are eager to read up on the latest tick news.

But ignoring simple tick prevention advice is a big mistake.  For something so small, they can really mess you up.

What kind of tick-borne diseases are we talking about?

Well, there are many diseases spread by ticks in the US.  You probably know about Lyme Disease.  But there are many other tick-borne diseases in the US.  Here’s an overview, and what to do to stay safe.

Lyme disease

Transmitted by the blacklegged tick or deer tick in the Northeast and upper Midwest and the western blacklegged tick along the Pacific coast.  Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans, sometimes circular or bulls-eye-shaped. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF)

Transmitted by the American dog tick and the Rocky Mountain wood tick in the US.  RMSF is a serious disease that can be fatal if not treated immediately.  Because the tick bite is painless, many people never remember being bitten. The disease frequently begins as a sudden onset of fever and headache.  Typical symptoms include: fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, and muscle pain. A rash may also develop, but may not appear in the first few days, and in some patients, it never develops.  Other symptoms may include lack of appetite, red eyes.

RMSF is a serious illness that can be fatal in the first eight days of symptoms if not treated correctly, even in previously healthy people. The progression of the disease varies greatly. Patients who are treated early may recover quickly on outpatient medication, while those who experience a more severe course may require intravenous antibiotics, prolonged hospitalization or intensive care.

Colorado Tick Fever

This disease occurs in Rocky Mountain states with the highest elevation, 4,000 to 10,500 feet.  Most cases happen in spring and summer months when ticks are most active. The most common symptoms are fever, chills, headache, body aches, and feeling tired. There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent CTF.


Transmitted by the lone star tick found primarily in the southcentral and eastern U.S.  Typical symptoms include: fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. Usually, these symptoms occur within 1-2 weeks following a tick bite.


Spread by the same tick that spreads Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis causes fever, headache, chills, and muscle aches, usually within 1-2 weeks of a tick bite.


Another one spread by the blacklegged or deer tick, Babesiosis is a disease caused by microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells.  Most cases occur in the Northeast and upper Midwest, particularly in parts of New England, New York state, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Symptoms vary.  Some people feel fine and don’t get any symptoms. Others, within a week or so, may develop flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, sweats, headache, body aches, loss of appetite, nausea, or fatigue.  But whether or not symptoms appear, this is a serious disease since Babesia parasites infect red blood cells, it can destroy those cells and lead to hemolytic anemia.

For those in a weakened condition, who have other serious health issues, are elderly or who lack a spleen, Babesiosis can be a severe, life-threatening disease.

Tickborne relapsing fever (TBRF)

TBRF is a bacterial infection characterized by recurring episodes of fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, and nausea.   Transmitted by infected soft ticks. TBRF has been reported in 15 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming and is associated with sleeping in rustic cabins and vacation homes.  The main symptoms of TBRF are high fever (e.g., 103° F), headache, muscle and joint aches. Symptoms can reoccur, producing a telltale pattern of fever lasting roughly 3 days, followed by 7 days without fever, followed by another 3 days of fever. Without antibiotic treatment, this process can repeat several times.

Ticks aren’t the only problem.  Mosquitos can also spread diseases in the US.  West Nile virus is most commonly transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. Fortunately, most people infected with WNV will have no symptoms. About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms. Less than 1% of infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, neurologic illness.

Be aware.  Stay Safe.

So, how can you protect yourself against tick-borne illnesses?  It’s actually pretty simple.


Insecticides can be useful in repelling ticks, just as bug stray can help keep mosquitoes away.  However, the kind of bug spray used for mosquitoes, DEET, doesn’t work against ticks.  Permethrin is the ingredient needed to kill adult ticks and their larvae.  You can find permethrin-treated clothing, socks and shoes.  If you think you’re likely to be exposed to ticks – for example, if you have a dog that you walk in the woods often, and/if you live where there are lots of deer and other wildlife – then it might be a good idea to invest in such tick-repellent clothing.


Always dress so that there is no exposed skin for a tick to latch onto when you are in areas likely to harbor ticks.  Long sleeves, long pants, pants legs tucked into socks, and a hat are important to prevent tick bits.  Lighter-colored clothing make it easier to spot ticks.


Always do a thorough bodily inspection after walking in tick-prone areas.  Pay special attention to body creases and hair.  Ticks are no bigger than a period at the end of a sentence, and you can’t feel when they attach.  Take the time to visually inspect every part of your clothing and body.  Don’t forget to check everyone, especially children and pets.


Toss clothing into the dryer immediately after returning from walking in tick-prone areas.  The heat of the dryer kills ticks.  The wash does not, so do a five-minute high-heat dry cycle immediately; don’t wait until doing a full wash later.


Ticks are attracted to moist, dark areas.  To keep your property clear of ticks, keep your property neat.  Leaf piles, shrubs and ground cover can harbor ticks, so don’t let leaf piles linger, and ideally keep the area nearest your home clear.  Tick can’t survive well in dry environments, so be sure that play sets are in a sunny area.  In fact, a barrier of wood chips around a yard can effective keep out ticks, because it creates too dry a passage for them to cross.

Remove and Report

If you do get bitten by a tick, remove the tick immediately.  Douse a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol, and smother the tick with it for one or two minutes.  Then, remove the tick with tweezers.  Place in a zip-lock bag, and set aside.  If you develop any flu-like symptoms or rash, see you doctor immediately, and bring the tick to be tested by your state health department.

Following a few simple rules can keep you from having your good life taken away by a tick bite.  Don’t let such a little thing do big damage to your life.

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