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Getting Ticked Off about Ticks- The Explosion in NE Ohio

By Dr. Arthur Lavin
This post was originally published on June 16th, 2017 and updated on June 14th, 2021.

We saw ticks explode into our lives starting at least 4 years ago.  This posting on ticks still contains the essential information you need to find your path through the swarming ticks.  So many of us and our children will have a tick on them this summer, so I hope you find this information and this guide very helpful.

Since this posting, the main change to alert everyone to is the arrival of Lyme in the Cleveland area.  For some wonderful, inexplicable reason, Lyme disease was not common here.   It began in two places in the US, the woods near Lyme, Connecticut (hence its name), and the woods of the upper Midwest in Wisconsin and Minnesota.  Over the many decades since, it has spread wherever deer carry their ticks, but even now, Lyme disease in deer ticks is not as common here as areas even just 60 or so miles away.

Still, the need to treat your child if they have had a nymph deer tick on them for over 24 hours now requires treatment with a course of oral antibiotics.  But if they have not had a tick, or if the tick is not baby, or nymph form, deer tick, or not on for more than 24 hours, you still will not need to use antibiotics, because there will be no Lyme.

Read below to learn how to know if the bug, or scab, or black mark is a tick.

Read to find out if the tick is a deer or dog tick.

Read to find out if the tick is a baby one or not.

A direct consequence of climate change and our record setting warm winters is the reported explosion of ticks in NorthEast Ohio.

Fortunately, we live in a small part of the Northeastern United States that is relatively free of Lyme disease.

https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/resources/brochure/lymediseasebrochure-P.pdf   (Page 3).

What are ticks, what about Lyme disease, what can you do, what to worry about.

Ticks

Ticks are disgusting, but they are not insects.  They have 8 not six legs, so they belong to the same family as other beloved animals such as spiders, scorpions, and mites.

The ticks we will be discussing live on the blood of mammals.  They tend to live in high grass, attaching to people as they walk by.

Once on one of us, their powerful jaws embed their head under the skin, so tightly that if you pull on off incorrectly, the head will remain.

Aside from their considerable power to turn our stomachs, ticks carry a range of germs that can cause serious disease, we will focus on Lyme disease here.

The two main types of ticks around Cleveland are the deer and dog ticks.  The deer tick has black legs, the dog tick brown.

Lyme disease is transmitted by deer not dog ticks.  And mainly by the baby, or nymph stage of the deer tick.

It takes at least 24 hours for the nymph baby tick to be on a person to spread Lyme disease.    So if you can be sure a found tick was on for less than 24 hours, an no others were on for that long or more, no Lyme was spread to you.

So here is the key to Lyme disease and ticks- if the tick has brown legs, or if not a nymph deer tick, you are safe, it doesn’t carry Lyme.

The nymph deer tick is very tiny, about the size of this period, right here.

Now, on the left is a grown up deer tick, on the right the nymph.

Now, here is the adult deer tick on the left, the grown up dog tick on the right.

Notice all the ticks have 8 legs, insects again have 6.

Notice the deer ticks all have black legs, the dog tick has brown legs.

Dog ticks are far more common around here.

Ticks are aplenty in Greater Cleveland this year, and all seem to agree it’s because we don’t  have really cold winters anymore.

So that’s why so many are ticked off about ticks.  They hang out on tall grass, and simply grab legs (they cannot jump) when someone walks by.

Where is Lyme disease?

Basically in New England, NY, and PA, and Wisconsin and Minnesota.

For some strange reason, there simply i snot much Lyme disease in MI, IN, and Ohio.

Take a look at the CDC maps.   The bottom map is from 2001, the top from 2015.

Notice anything?  How about the fact that the black blob that indicates each case of Lyme disease in the US for one year is massively bigger?

This likely reflects the fact that with global warming comes the massive proliferation of ticks.  And with the rise in deer populations, deer ticks are rising too, and over time, the Lyme disease bacteria simply gets into more nymph deer ticks.

Perhaps most worrisome for us here in Cleveland is the fact that we sit smack-dab in the middle of two explosions, the key explosions, of Lyme disease in the country.  You can see the NY-New England blob and the Minnesota-Wisconsin blob slowly engulfing all between, namely MI, IN, and us.

For right now, though, there is a strange but real line at the OH-PA border, you can see it in the 2015 picture above, black on the right of that line, pretty blank to the left.

So, for right now, there is very little risk of getting Lyme disease from a tick bite in our greater Cleveland area, but that could change.

What to Do 

IF YOU FIND A TICK

If you find a tick, remove it.

Removal is tricky because if you simply scratch it off, the body will tear off the head, and the head will remain in the skin.

So, you want to remove the whole tick.

Here is how:

https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html

If you find a tick attached to your skin, there’s no need to panic. There are several tick removal devices on the market, but a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers will remove a tick quite effectively.

How to remove a tick

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
  4. Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.

Avoid folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible–not waiting for it to detach.

WHAT ABOUT LYME RISK?

If you got your tick bite around Cleveland, the risk of Lyme disease, as noted above is very low, so there is nothing to do unless symptoms occur.

If you got your tick bite in the dark areas of the US map of 2015 above, we would recommend you get a course of amoxicillin or a substitute if allergic to that.

If you get symptoms of Lyme, particularly the characteristic growing circle red rash, you should see us, and will be treated and tested.

This is the rash of Lyme disease, the ring around it grows without thickening.

It also shows up in many forms.

Lyme disease can start off without any rash, just fatigue and muscle/joint pain with and without fever.

BOTTOM LINES

  1. Ticks are disgusting.
  2. There is an explosion of tick numbers around our homes, thank you climate change.
  3. Most ticks around here are dog ticks, and cannot spread Lyme.  They have brown legs.
  4. Lyme is spread by baby deer ticks, they are tiny, about the size of this period, here.
  5. To get Lyme you have to be bitten by a nymph deer tick that has been on you for at least 24 hours.
  6. If you see a tick, remove the head for sure, see technique above.
  7. If you think a tick bit your child, and it was around here, not to worry about Lyme unless symptoms (the rash above, achy limbs, fatigue) appear.
  8. If you got bitten by a nymph deer tick in a Lyme region (see map above for 2015), you should get a course of amoxicillin.
  9. If you get the rash, and/or fatigue, achy limbs, and you were around ticks, you should get tested and treated.

So sorry these nasty non-insects are infesting our lawns, hope this guidance helps.

To you health,
Dr. Arthur Lavin

 

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