Tick Bites are Getting More Dangerous

tick bite

Image: Shutterstock/ Steven Ellingson

A tick bite usually isn’t very painful. And people who spend a lot of time outside often learn to just remove the tick and forget about them. But it might be time to change that because the evidence shows that tick bites are becoming more dangerous.

The rates of tick-borne illnesses are increasing. And so are the number of ticks. So, let’s take a look at the issue and ask why are tick bites getting more dangerous? What should you do if you get bitten? And how can you prevent it?

Why are Tick Bites Dangerous?

Tick bites are not usually dangerous by themselves. Ticks are far too small to do any real physical damage to your body. And unlike spiders, they don’t carry any dangerous venom. The real danger from tick bites comes from the fact that many ticks carry dangerous diseases that they can spread through their bites.

And it seems like these diseases are becoming more common. Rates of infection are on the rise, and that’s primarily because of the weather. The past few winters in much of the world where ticks are endemic have been unusually warm, which means that ticks are active for more of the year than they usually are. And more active ticks means more frequent tick bites.

The most famous disease spread by the bite of a tick is probably Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a condition that causes headaches, muscle aches, and chronic fatigue. Most cases can be cured if treated early. But if left unchecked, the disease can enter the chronic stage, which can’t be cured and can be so debilitating that it changes your life.

But there are a number of different- and often dangerous- diseases that can be spread through tick bites like babesiosis and anaplasmosis.

What Should You Do If You Are Bitten?

If you are bitten by a tick, the first step is to monitor your health carefully. Obviously, it’s not necessary to head to the doctor every time you get a tick bite. But there are a few signs to watch out for that suggest you might be infected by a dangerous disease. When it comes to Lyme disease, the most important thing to look for is a distinctive rash around the site of the bite. Many people refer to this rash as a “bullseye” because it consists of a single red spot at the site of the tick bite and then a ring around it.

But if any tick bite results in a significant and visible rash, you should probably head to the doctor and tell them you were bitten by a tick.

However, many tick-borne illnesses don’t show any visible symptoms in the early stages. And even people with Lyme disease don’t always develop a rash. That’s why it’s important that you watch out for the development of any symptoms for a few weeks after any bite and make sure to see a doctor immediately if you experience fever, headaches, or muscle pains.

Getting treatment early is the most important factor when it comes to dealing with Lyme disease or any tick-borne illness.

How can you Prevent Bites?

But the best way to protect yourself from these kinds of diseases is to avoid getting bitten in the first place. And while you’ll never totally avoid all tick bites if you spend significant amounts of time outside, there are a few things you can do to minimize your risk.

First, watch out for the kinds of places ticks live. Ticks feed by catching onto passing animals from long stalks of grass or the limbs of a bush. Anytime you pass through some dense undergrowth, there’s a good chance you might pick up a tick or two. Avoiding heavy patches of long grass or making sure to check your legs after passing through is a good way to avoid any unwanted passengers.

Second, if you know you’re going to be going outside for a while, it’s a good idea to wear long pants and tuck the legs of your pants into your socks. This keeps ticks from getting under your clothes where they can crawl up your body unnoticed.

Finally, consider a good bug repellant and spray it anywhere a tick might be likely to latch onto your body. And make sure to check yourself all over after coming indoors for any ticks.

By practicing a little bit of prevention, you can avoid any of the dangerous diseases spread by tick bites. And that means you’ll be able to enjoy your summer worry-free.