As the weather gets warmer, there’s only thing that can hamper our good mood: ticks.
Unfortunately, these little buggers emerge in the warmth, and if we’re not careful, they can be pretty harmful to us. They carry tons of diseases that, if transmitted to humans, can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms that can have us down for the count instantly, or months later.
Not to freak you out, but the number of illnesses being transmitted by ticks, as well as by mosquitos and fleas, have recently tripled in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with more than 60 percent of diseases being from ticks. So it’s good to know what to expect in the event you get bit by a tick.
Side note: Lyme Disease isn’t the only tick-borne illness. (Who knew?) While it’s certainly one to know about, there are many others that ticks carry throughout the country—most specifically in the Northeast, upper Midwest, and down South.
If you’re a particularly outdoorsy person (or even if you’re not), listen up. Here are the top tick-borne diseases to know about, so you can prevent yourself from getting them, and stay healthy all summer long— and winter long, too.
This is one disease you want to know the signs for so you can get it diagnosed, and get it diagnosed fast. The longer you go without treatment for Lyme, the worse it can get. Lyme usually starts off with a red bulls-eye-shaped rash that can appear anywhere on your body. It can cause all sorts of flu-like symptoms, from fever and chills to fatigue and joint pain.
If it goes untreated for a long time, you might start to develop sharp, shooting pains in your hands and feet, nerve pain, an irregular heartbeat, facial paralysis, and other unpleasant affects. About 300,000 Americans get Lyme each year, according to the CDC, with a total of 402,502 cases reported between 2004-2016.
Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis
Both of these tick-transmitted infections cause similar symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle pain, body chills, stomach pain, nausea, cough, and even confusion. A rash might appear in either (more commonly in ehrlichiosis), but are rare.
This is the second most common tick-borne disease in America, right after Lyme, with around 40,000 cases reported from 2004-2016.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
The medical name is spotted fever rickettsiosis, which is as serious as it sounds. It begins with cold and stomach flu symptoms such as fever, headache, nausea and vomiting, stomach pain, muscle pain, and lack of appetite, which can make it difficult to know. But once a rash appears (usually 2-4 days after infection), it’s likely Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
The rash can show up differently for everyone—sometimes it’s red and splotchy, sometimes it looks like pinpoint dots. If not treated properly, the disease can cause death. There was 37,000 cases between 2004 and 2016.
The frustrating part about babesiosis is that it might not cause symptoms until months after you’re infected. At that point, you could feel rundown with fever, chills, sweats, body aches, nausea, or fatigue. The differentiating factor is that sometimes it can cause hemolytic anemia, a rare condition that destroys your red blood cells. That means it’s especially concerning in people with weak immune systems. There have been 1,910 cases through 2004-2016, though there were zero cases reported in 2004.
While there are a number of kinds of tularemia, the most common ones associated with ticks are ulceroglandular, which causes a skin ulcer to appear at the point of infection that can lead to swelling, and glandular, which causes the swelling with no ulcer. The swelling most commonly occurs in your armpit or groin area, and both also can cause a high fever. Tularemia is pretty rare, thank goodness— just 230 cases reported between 2004 and 2016.
The rarest of them all, but still one to be wary of. There was only one case reported each year from 2004-2015, but then in 2016 it jumped to 22. Powassan causes symptoms such as fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, difficulty speaking, and seizures, but these typically don’t occur until weeks or months after infection. A bad case may cause brain or meningitis, and there is currently no cure or medicine to help.
Did you know about these tick-borne diseases? How are you going to protect yourself from ticks this summer?