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Ticks and the Diseases They Carry

Ticks are small brown parasitic organisms that live in wooded areas and fields. These organisms need blood from humans or animals to survive. Unfortunately, ticks also tend to be carriers of various serious diseases, and can pass these diseases onto the people they bite.

Examples of diseases that ticks may transmit include:

  • Lyme disease (especially by adult deer ticks)
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • tularemia
  • babesiosis (a malaria-like illness transmitted by certain ticks)
  • ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis
  • relapsing fever

Symptoms vary among the different diseases, but they may include fever or chills, body aches, headaches, rashes, and nausea.

What Causes Tick Infestations?

Tick infestations can occur when just one tick is brought into the home.

It is possible for you to come into contact with a tick if there are wooded or brushy areas near your home and you are outdoors when the weather is warm. The tick will attach itself somewhere on your body and bury its head into your skin. Ticks can attach themselves to any part of the body, including:

  • the groin
  • under the arms
  • inside the ears
  • in the hair
  • inside the belly button
  • behind the knee

Ticks can also attach themselves to your pets, especially small dogs. Since ticks are usually small, it can be hard to see them on your body or in your pet’s fur.

After a tick is brought into your home, a tick infestation may occur once the tick reproduces. Ticks can lay their eggs in different parts of the home. However, they typically lay their eggs in between floorboards.

What Are the Signs of a Tick Infestation?

During a tick infestation in your home, a large number of ticks may be found on your body or on your pet. Since ticks require blood from people or animals to survive, they will attach themselves to you, your family members, or your pet.

Ticks move quickly across the body, but they prefer areas that are warm and moist. They are often found in the armpits, groin, or scalp. Once the tick has found a place it likes, it will bite you and burrow its head firmly into your skin. Unlike other insect bites, this bite is painless.

You should always check your body — and that of your children and pets — after being in an outside area known to have ticks. Make sure to examine any brown or black spots. Do not just focus on the areas where ticks are commonly found. Ticks range in size from as small as a pinky nail to as large as a pencil eraser.

You may also have a tick infestation in your home if you or one of your family members develops a tick-borne illness. The effects of these illnesses can range from mild to severe. Many of them have similar symptoms, such as:

  • fever and/or chills
  • body aches and pains similar to the flu
  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • a rash

Many symptoms of these illnesses are similar to those of other health conditions. Rashes that develop with tick-borne illnesses may make it easier for your doctor to make a diagnosis. However, sometimes the rashes disappear after other symptoms occur.

You should see your doctor right away if you have symptoms and have been in areas where ticks live, or if your home was recently infested. They can properly diagnosis a tick-borne illness. Early diagnosis is essential to prevent any long-term complications associated with these diseases.

When Should You Contact Your Doctor?

You should call your doctor if a tick bites you and you develop symptoms of a tick-borne illness. One of the first signs will be a rash, accompanied by a fever. Antibiotics are typically used to treat tick-borne illnesses. Your doctor will be able to give you the correct diagnosis and prescribe the right antibiotic for treatment.

Are you having problems with ticks?

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