Spring Weather Increases Tick Exposure

The arrival of spring brings many things beyond April showers and May flowers. This year, as in many recent years, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has cautioned 2021 will be a dangerous season for deer ticks.

Blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are the most common carrier of Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis. Ticks typically thrive in tall grass, brush, and wooded areas, but deer ticks have been found in every county in the commonwealth and can live in any habitat.

As more and more people anxiously engage in outdoor activities, the risk of tick exposure increases. Physicians naturally encourage their patients to spend time participating in physical activity, including gardening and recreationally, however we must always be aware of ticks and the diseases they carry. So, it is important to protect you and your family when you are outdoors. Shelly Brown, Infectious Disease Coordinator at Penn Highlands Huntingdon, explains why. “Anytime it’s above 40 degrees, ticks are active—even in January,” Brown says. “In our region, we had a lot of warmer days this year.”

The Infectious disease experts at Penn Highlands Healthcare provide the following insights:

  • Common signs of a tickborne disease include fever, headache, chills, and muscle aches. Lyme disease is often characterized by a bullseye-like rash, although Lyme disease may not always present itself with this obvious sign. If you believe you have been bitten by a tick, it is important to speak to a doctor immediately.
  • Symptoms can include the notorious “bullseye rash”, which occurs in approximately 70 to 80 percent of individuals infected with Lyme disease. However, the rash can also manifest with a different appearance, or may be totally absent.

According to the PA Dept. of Health, any combination of fever, fatigue, vomiting, weakness, headache, muscle aches, or joint pain—and in more serious cases, confusion, seizures, or difficulty speaking—may indicate a tickborne illness.

The good news is that, if caught early enough, most tick related illnesses can be treated with an antibiotic. Early treatment means improved outcomes and patients generally recover rapidly. However, it is important to take these symptoms seriously to avoid more serious issues if left untreated. These symptoms can include spread to joints, heart and nervous system.

Preventive efforts are the best thing you can do to avoid tickborne illness. Brown recommends the following:

  • Keeping the outdoors around your home manicured can help.
  • Wear light-colored clothing. This doesn’t deter them, but “it can help you spot them,” says Brown.
  • After coming inside, check clothing, pets and outdoor items. Throw clothes in the dryer for 10 minutes—“Hot, dry heat will kill ticks,” Brown says.
  • Do not panic if you do see a tick on your body after coming indoors. It takes 24 hours for the tick to be on your body and to transmit Lyme disease. Remove it if you can and contact your primary care provider.
  • However, if you cannot remove the tick or you are unsure of how long the tick may have been on your body, contact your primary care physician or go to your local QCare or other emergency care service for support.
  • The CDC recommends using clean tweezers applied close to the skin’s surface. Using stable pressure, tug upward on the insect. After removing the tick, use rubbing alcohol or soap and water to clean the skin. Then discard the tick in a tightly contained container or down the toilet.

If you experience symptoms of tickborne illness or discover a tick has latched on, call your primary care provider for additional information. To find a physician or learn more about QCare services in your community, go to www.phhealthcare.org/service/walk-in-care for more information.