The summer months are high season for ticks–and for the Lyme Disease that everyone’s least favorite pests sometimes carry! A recent University of Virginia report says this summer may be the worst for ticks in years because of our mild winter. And this spring’s heavy rains mean tall grass and lots of opportunities for tick bites. We want our patients and members of our community to enjoy outdoor activities this summer, but be sure to take precautions to stay safe. And know that if a tick bite turns problematic, LMG Cornwall Urgent Care has got you covered!
Here are a few tips on how to prevent and treat tick bites–and some guidelines for when a visit to urgent care may be needed:
How Can I Prevent Tick Bites?
Your first line of defense in avoiding tick-transmitted illness is preventing tick bites when possible. The Centers for Disease Control offer some excellent common sense suggestions for preventing tick bites:
- Stay away from grassy, brushy areas when possible
- Walk in the center of trails (remember, ticks can’t jump or fly so they rely on you to come in contact with them)
- Use an Environmental Protection Agency approved insect repellent when you go outside
- Check your body and clothing for ticks after spending time outside
How Should I Remove A Tick That’s Attached Or Embedded?
Removing a tick within 24 hours increases your chances of avoiding Lyme Disease. But ticks feed by inserting a tube into your skin so they can sometimes be tough to remove.
The CDC has some tips for removing ticks on your own:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers and connect with the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Don’t twist or jerk the tick as this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the remaining parts with tweezers if possible.
- After removing the tick, clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
- Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.
What Types Of Ticks Are Common In Our Area And What Diseases Do They Spread?
In Northern Virginia, Lyme Disease is the biggest concern hands down. Lyme Disease is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria and in our area is spread primarily by the Blacklegged Tick, also known as the deer tick. Lyme disease is often found carried by the white-tailed deer that are so ubiquitous in our region. The deer tick often transmits Lyme bacteria in its nymphal stage before it becomes an adult. That’s why small deer ticks are such a concern when we find them on ourselves or our children.
Our area is also home to the American Dog Tick, which does not carry Lyme but can transmit the disease known as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which is less common but can be quite dangerous if not treated.
When Should I Head To Urgent Care For A Tick Bite?
Not every tick bite is cause for a trip to the doctor, but the Mayo Clinic has identified a few warning signs and symptoms that generally call for a visit to your preferred urgent care center:
- If you think the tick has been attached for 36 hours or more
- If you can’t remove the tick completely: if a tick stays attached, the likelihood of Lyme increases, so you want to get help if you can’t pull it out on your own
- If you get a rash or bullseye pattern on your skin (this usually occurs 3 days to 2 weeks following the bite)
- If you develop flu-like signs and symptoms, including fever, chills, fatigue, muscle and joint pain following a tick bite. Remember, not everyone gets a rash in the case of Lyme Disease.
- If you think the bite came from a deer tick, especially in the tiny nymphal stage
Should I Bring The Tick To My Urgent Care Appointment?
The short answer is yes–if possible. But this is mostly so that our staff can identify the type of tick and its life cycle stage. Some of our patients opt to send ticks to a private lab for testing for disease-causing bacteria. However, the CDC warns that tick testing isn’t necessarily as valuable as some may think. The time delay involved in getting back results is usually a drawback. Also a positive tick test doesn’t necessarily mean the patient was infected, and on the flip side, a negative tick may give you a false sense of security if you’ve had more than one bite.
The bottom line is that we’ll get the most valuable information from examining you and doing a blood test on you rather than testing the tick.
What Tests And Treatments Are Available For Lyme Disease?
In many cases, your urgent care doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics right away if you have a rash or another telltale sign of Lyme Disease. She will also do blood tests that test for antibodies to the Lyme bacteria to confirm the diagnosis. These include the test known as ELISA and the highly reliable Western Blot test.
Most patients with Lyme get successful treatment with antibiotics to kill the bacteria that causes Lyme. The broad spectrum antibiotic Doxycycline is one of the most common, and amoxicillin is often prescribed for children. Most patients need a 2 to 3-week course of treatment.
Why Is LMG Cornwall Urgent Care My Best Choice For Tick Bite Treatment?
With tick bites, time is of the essence. So waiting to see your primary care doctor is often not an option, especially if the bite occurs on a weekend or holiday.
A costly and time-consuming emergency room visit is not usually warranted for a tick bite; high-quality urgent care is often the best choice.
Our staff is expert in treating tick bites and identifying Lyme symptoms and is familiar with best practices in the treatment of Lyme.
We are able to prescribe medications promptly and get treatment going in a timely fashion before Lyme disease can cause any long-term problems.
Summer in Virginia is such a glorious time of year, and we want all of our patients to enjoy their favorite outdoor activities. But just remember that this summer may prove to be a bad one for ticks. Take precautions, wear insect repellent and make that trip to LMG Cornwall Urgent Care if you have a bite that sets off any alarm bells.