Beware of the danger posed by ticks

As this rocky Iowa spring rolls into summer, you may find yourself spending time in the great outdoors enjoying nature. The beautiful meadows of dandelions or river bottoms full of Morrell mushrooms may distract you from a small, but potentially serious danger: ticks.

Ticks are small parasites that feed on the blood of humans and other animals. Ticks carry various diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, STARI (Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness) and Lyme disease. The breed of tick determines what disease they may carry, and tick breeds have specific geographic locations where they are found.

In Iowa, we have dog ticks, black legged (deer) ticks, and lone star ticks. Deer ticks are known to carry the most diseases of any tick, one of which is Lyme disease. Lone star ticks have been associated with developing red meat allergy and STARI, while dog ticks are most associated with Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

What to do when you find a tick

Remove with fine tipped tweezers, grabbing as close to the skin as possible. Avoid twisting or jerking motion, as this can rip the mouth parts off of the tick. Clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Dispose of the tick via plastic bag, bottle with a cap, or flushing down the toilet. If you are concerned that you may have been bit, placing the tick in a plastic bag and seeking assistance on identifying the breed of tick can be useful.

Symptoms of illness caused by ticks are vague: fever, chills, body aches, and fatigue. Rashes are common and can help identify that your illness is caused by ticks and not something else. Both STARI and Lyme disease often present as a bullseye rash, meaning there is one initial red area where the bite occurred and a red ring surrounding that area.

Symptoms and rash typically present several days after the bite occurs, but may take up to 30 days to develop. If these signs and symptoms should occur, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. If your doctor determines that you are infected with either STARI or Lyme disease, they can give you a course of oral antibiotics to treat the infection.

Connor Clark, of Remsen, is a pharmacy student at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.


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