(WJW) — We’re well into tick season, and the tick population is expected to surge this year.
But there are many ways to prevent being bitten by ticks, which carry Lyme disease. And if you do get bit, there are ways to cure and prevent severe impacts from the disease.
When is tick season?
The spring months mark the beginning of tick season. The prime months for ticks are March through June, with a peak in Lyme disease cases typically in June and July.
“All the ticks that tucker down underneath the leaf litter and snow are out seeking a host. So we have a combination in the springtime of many different types of ticks that are active,” said Nicole Chinnici, lab director at East Stroudsburg University Tick Diagnostic Testing.
This year, the tick population is expected to surge due to a mild winter and early spring as well as abundant rainfall.
Also, people who have been getting outdoors because of the coronavirus pandemic are encountering the insects more frequently.
How is Lyme disease transmitted?
The Ohio Department of Health reports there are about a dozen species of ticks in Ohio. But most are associated with animals only.
Lyme disease is transmitted by black-legged ticks, or deer ticks, in the northeastern U.S. and upper midwestern U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The western black-legged tick transmits the disease along the Pacific coast.
Lyme disease caused by an infection with a bacteria transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected tick.
Dr. Amy Edwards, a pediatric infectious disease doctor with UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, said that most often happens after a tick has engorged itself with the blood of its host for more than two days.
The tick becomes so engorged it vomits its stomach contents into the bite, transmitting the disease. The disease can be transmitted in other situations, but this is the most common, Edwards said.
Can ticks cause other diseases?
While Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the U.S., it’s not the only one by far.
Some others listed by the CDC include babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, southern tick-associated rash illness, tick-borne relapsing fever and tularemia.
Preventing tick bites
Health experts say if you spend time outside, it’s important to look closely for ticks since the insects can be incredibly small — sometimes the size of a pinhead.
University Hospitals reports they prefer to live in wooded areas, low-growing grasslands and yards.
Also, experts suggest wearing light-colored clothes to make spotting ticks easier and applying insect repellent containing DEET.
What if you get bit?
It’s important that if you do find a tick, it is removed promptly.
Edwards said that most people infected with Lyme disease bacteria never show symptoms. But if they do, the most common is a red bullseye rash that appears several days after the infection. If the rash goes away, it could also come back a second time.
Other symptoms that could show up include headache, aches and pains and a low-grade fever.
Edwards said those who get bit or suspect they were bit should monitor themselves for the rash and other symptoms. If they do show symptoms, they should contact their medical provider as early as possible for treatment with antibiotics.
UH reports many people with Lyme disease are diagnosed early and are cured by their first treatment. If left untreated, many will be cured on their own and not develop complications.
But untreated, complications could include chronic and debilitating conditions.
For much more from UH, click here.