The warmer temperatures this spring are causing tick activity to start earlier than usual, putting more people at risk for tick-borne illnesses. Ticks are external parasites; they attach themselves to the skin and feed on blood over many days, possibly transferring diseases to the host, who can be a human or a pet. Tick-borne illnesses, such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia, can cause headaches and muscle aches, as well as more serious complications that affect the brain, joints, heart, nerves and muscles.
The Kentucky Regional Poison Control Center of Kosair Children's Hospital has been treating patients affected by the local tick outbreak. The Poison Control Center suggests several measures to ensure you do not acquire a disease from a tick bite.
If you find a tick, remove it using a pair of tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull the tick off using steady, even pressure. Do not jerk or twist it, as this may leave part of the tick in the skin. Ticks may stay on a person for up to 24 hours before feeding (biting). An engorged tick tends to appear plumped up like a small grape.
Once you remove the tick, clean the area with soap and water. Watch the affected area for signs of infection such as redness, itching or a bull's eye-pattern rash. If it starts to look infected or if you develop a fever, call the Poison Control Center immediately at (800) 222-1222 or visit a doctor for treatment. The diseases that ticks carry are usually bacterial and can be treated with antibiotics successfully if caught early enough.