There are nearly 500,000 new cases of Lyme Disease in the U.S. each year. In addition to Lyme disease, ticks carry many other bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
Prevention and proper management of a tick bite can drastically reduce potentially severe illnesses.
Ticks that cause Lyme disease and other infections are present in many parts of the world, in most states in the USA. According to the California Department of Public Health, these ticks have also been found in 56/58 of California counties.
High-risk activities include:
- Mountain Biking
- Horseback Riding
Tick Bite Prevention
Understand where the ticks are. Ticks search for a meal or “quest” on the leaves and grasses. Stick to wider trails, stay towards the center of the trail, and avoid brushing through grasses.
Wear light colored clothes with long sleeve shirts, long pants, and tuck your pants into your socks.
You can use safe tick repellents like permethrin to treat clothing, tents, sleeping bags, picnic blankets, etc, to help lower the risk of a tick climbing onto your body. This chrysanthemum based product is safe for use and can be sprayed on, or you can also have your clothing professionally treated or purchase clothes that have been treated.
Other effective repellent products include:
- Lemon Eucalyptus Oil
- Nootkatone from Cypress trees and grapefruit
- DEET containing products are also effective but are more toxic so we recommend using these more sparingly and for extreme exposure situations
When returning from being outdoors in tick endemic areas (which can also include city parks and lawns at home), change your clothes and put the used clothes in the dryer on high for at least 20 min. Shower and tick check carefully.
Check your children and partner thoroughly for ticks, and have someone check you, including behind the ears, under finger and toenails, belly button, groin, hairline, axilla, etc.
Check your children before bed nightly if they have been playing outside.
In California, the tiny nymph ticks are the highest risk for transmission of the Borrelia bacteria. The tiny size of this tick means that you have to be extra careful and thorough when performing tick checks in order to be safe.
It is also important to be careful with pets as vectors as they can bring ticks into the house.
Do not squeeze the body, twist, burn, put on oil as this can increase the risk of infection as the tick might regurgitate its stomach contents into the bite area.
Knowing the type of tick can help your doctor know which pathogens might be present and help make decisions on whether or not to treat you while waiting for the results of the tick testing. Info on the type of tick can also be helpful if the tick was lost and not able to be tested.
Tick Pathogen Testing
It is important to understand that sometimes tick identification will be easy based on the features present, and sometimes it will be very hard and require an expert to identify the tick.
Testing is particularly important with ticks that may transmit the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, as early treatment can make a big difference in outcomes and preventing chronic infection.
Tick Report is a comprehensive service run by the University of Massachusetts that identifies what disease causing microbes your tick may be carrying. They offer accurate reporting, basic and expanded panels of tests for different bugs, and the turnaround time is approximately 3 business days.
After a tick bite, watch for any unusual symptoms like skin rash, stiff neck, headache, muscle and/or joint pain, or flu-like symptoms. Consult a doctor knowledgeable in tickborne illnesses for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Lyme Disease FAQ