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Ticks

Ticks are nasty little creatures that we often don’t see but can make us very sick indeed. We are talking about ticks and how their bite can ruin your day.

Ticks can be either hard or soft shelled. They have several segmented legs like spiders. A tick’s primary source of food is blood. It doesn’t have to be your blood. They have no particular affinity for humans, but you might be the source of their next meal if you are nearby.

Ticks, whether hard or soft, have a distinctive shape that identifies them. They can feed on a host for several days (hard ones) or a few hours (soft ones). In either case, the bite can be painful or a toxin can be secreted to mask the fact that they are even biting you. But, ticks carry various pathogens that can infect your blood and make you very sick.

One of the better recognized conditions caused by ticks is Lyme disease. It is named after a small town in Connecticut where a large number of tick bites was first reported. The tick responsible is the deer tick. They carry the bacteria referred to as Borrelia burgdorferi. These ticks are found all across America and even in Europe.

Because ticks are so small and have the ability to burrow into the skin as they feed, many people don’t realize that they have even been bitten until they start showing symptoms of the disease. These symptoms include:

* A flu-like illness but during the summer and late spring
* Rash that gets bigger over time, growing to the size of a football in some cases
* A bull’s eye look to the lesion after a few weeks

If left untreated, Lyme disease may go away but it can recur. In advanced cases, a person may experience palsy of the face or even meningitis. That can be signaled by headaches and a stiff neck. Swelling of the brain can lead to confusion and mental delays. Further symptoms include arthritis and heart problems.

Since these signs can also be a symptom of other conditions or may appear long after possible exposure to ticks, it is wise to use precautions when outside and in areas know to be tick infested.

* Wear white ankle socks in tall grass. It is easier to detect ticks
* Look over your body once you come in from working or playing in wooded areas
* Avoid leaning against or sitting under trees
* Shake out clothing that has been hung outside and also wash clothing immediately after being in the woods
* If you spot a tick on your skin, know how to remove it or seek medical attention immediately

Fortunately for us, only a small percentage of tick bites result in Lyme disease. But, even one tick bite can be dangerous so use precautions.

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