"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Beware of an increasingly common threat: tick-borne diseases

Lyme disease will not be the one cause for concern.

They could also be as small as a poppy seed, but ticks are a serious health hazard for a lot of Americans, especially through the warmer months.

Decades ago, it was thought that unless you lived in a Lyme disease hot spot, like Connecticut, that you simply didn't should think much about ticks and the diseases they carry. However, this has not been the case for a while. In fact, tick-borne illnesses doubled within the United States between 2014 and 2016, in line with the CDC.

So, in case you're going to be outside this summer, it pays to be vigilant.

Common conditions attributable to ticks

Lyme disease is essentially the most well-known of the tick-borne diseases. Although it affects hundreds of individuals annually, it continues to be largely isolated to specific geographic locations. “It's very common in some states and not in others,” says Dr. Adlow.

But while Lyme disease is essentially the most common, there are other tick-borne conditions people needs to be looking out for lately, Dr. Adlow says.

One is babesiosis, which is attributable to parasites similar to malaria. Babesia microti. Anaplasmosis is one other. Both of those diseases are spread by the identical tick as Lyme disease and have the identical geographic range. Other tick-borne diseases are Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and Colorado tick fever. “Most are caused by bacteria, some by viruses or parasites,” says Dr. Edlow.

Signs and symptoms

People with Lyme disease often notice a big, flat red rash, sometimes shaped like a bull's eye or goal, at the positioning of the tick bite. However, many patients shouldn't have the classic bull's-eye appearance. They may feel sick with a fever, headache, or joint pain. If undiagnosed and untreated, the condition can result in other problems, including multiple skin rashes, neurological symptoms, and conditions including Bell's palsy, meningitis, back pain, or sciatica. It can even result in heart problems, similar to an abnormally slow heart rate, inflammation around the guts (pericarditis) and other less common conditions, he says. Lyme patients normally don't have any fever or a low-grade fever. If you develop a high fever after a tick bite, suspect babesiosis or anaplasmosis, that are also accompanied by chills, headache, and fatigue.

Diagnosis and treatment

Dr. Adlow says more doctors today are aware of the condition and usually tend to diagnose it. But misdiagnosis still happens, he says. Tick-borne diseases will be difficult for doctors to diagnose, as they often mimic other conditions and symptoms are non-specific. One clue that you'll have a tick-borne illness is that symptoms should not normally accompanied by respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms, unlike viral conditions similar to influenza or gastroenteritis. Also, tick-borne illnesses are more common through the summer, when influenza is less common.

Treatment and prevention of tick-borne diseases

Non-viral tick-borne diseases are frequently treated with antibiotics. But the very best strategy is prevention. Ideally, in case you're going to an area where it's possible you'll encounter ticks, you need to tuck your pant legs into your socks and your shirt into your pants. Here are another strategies:

Clean up your yard. Practice landscaping by mowing the grass regularly, and clearing away leaves, trash and overgrown areas to make your outdoor space less hospitable to rodents or other animals that tick. can, or take the ticks themselves.

Use bug spray. Adults should select an insect repellent containing DEET on the skin and permethrin on clothing to scale back the prospect of tick bites.

Check your skin. Check your skin after spending time outdoors. Finding and removing the tick early can prevent it from spreading infection, especially when it's Lyme disease. Ticks normally should be attached for twenty-four to 48 hours to transmit the infection.

Photo: © H_Barth/Getty Images