SOURCE: Quinnipiac University, news release, May 13, 2016
SUNDAY, May 22, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- While only a few tick species infect people with diseases, the rising popularity of many outdoor activities and the spread of residential developments has upped the odds that one of those creepy parasites might latch on to you.
"Luckily, ticks don't fly, jump or fall from the sky," vector-borne disease expert Stephen Wikel said. He's a professor emeritus of medical sciences at Quinnipiac University's Frank H. Netter M.D. School of Medicine, in North Haven, Conn.
"They generally move from grass to a living host, and crawl upwards, looking for a warm, moist area to feed. Ticks also have incredible anti-detection defenses. For example, their saliva is loaded with antihistamines, anticoagulants and other inhibitors that prevent wound healing, and dampen pain and itch responses; unfed nymphs are so small, they can be mistaken for freckles," he said.
So, how can you avoid becoming a tick's next meal? Wikel recommends the following preventive steps:
If despite your best prevention efforts, a tick still attaches to you, there's a right and a wrong way to remove ticks, Wikel cautioned.
Don't use matches or the tip of a cigarette to burn off ticks. This could cause them to transmit bacteria more quickly.
The correct way to remove a tick is to lift it gently with thin forceps or tweezers. It's also a good idea to use a magnifying glass while removing a tick, Wikel advised.
If you can remove the tick intact, you can bring it to your doctor's office or local health department for identification.
If you develop symptoms within a few weeks after a tick bite, make an appointment with your doctor, advises the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Warning signs of tick-borne diseases may vary from person to person, said Wikel. Symptoms, which can range from mild to severe, may include: fever and chills, headaches, fatigue and muscle aches.
People with Lyme disease may also develop joint pain, he said.
"Many people think a sign of Lyme disease is a bull's-eye rash, but rashes don't always occur," said Wikel.
If left untreated, Lyme disease can affect the joints, the heart or the nervous system. When diagnosed early, on the other hand, Lyme disease can be cured with antibiotics. This is the case for most tick-borne disease, Wikel said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on ticks.