Ticks, tiny arachnids that thrive in wooded and grassy areas, become increasingly active during the spring and summer months, posing significant health risks to people and animals alike. These little creatures are not to be messed with.
Ticks are commonly found in wooded areas, tall grasses, and bushes, where they wait for potential hosts to brush against them. Hikers, campers, outdoor enthusiasts, and pet owners are particularly vulnerable during this period. Several tick species are prevalent in the United States, with some of the most common ones being the black-legged tick (or deer tick), the lone star tick, and the American dog tick. Each species may carry various infectious diseases and can transmit them to humans through their bites.
The most well-known and worrisome of these is Lyme disease, caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is primarily transmitted by black-legged ticks. Early symptoms of Lyme disease may include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic “bull’s-eye” rash. If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause severe joint pain, neurological issues, and heart problems.
Anaplasmosis, caused by the bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum and transmitted primarily by black-legged ticks, can lead to fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and other flu-like symptoms. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is transmitted by the American dog tick, the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus), and the Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni). RMSF can cause fever, headache, rash, and potentially life-threatening complications if not treated promptly. Ehrlichiosis, a disease transmitted by the lone star tick, can lead to fever, headache, and muscle aches, while babesiosis, carried by the black-legged tick, can cause flu-like symptoms and, in severe cases, lead to complications in people with weakened immune systems.
Ticks are no joke.
Preventing tick bites is crucial in reducing the risk of tick-borne illnesses. When venturing into tick-prone areas, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and closed-toe shoes to minimize exposed skin. Always apply Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 to exposed skin and clothing, and after you’re out and about, always check for ticks on your body, paying close attention to hard-to-see areas, such as the scalp, underarms, and groin.