Lyme disease & Tick Bites - You may not know you were bitten

Known tick bite

So you’ve been bitten by a tick, but there is no ‘rash‘. Are you ok? The truth is you may not be and you may very well be infected.

Although most people associate Lyme disease with the bulls-eye-shaped “erythema migrans” (EM) rash, less than 50 percent of patients even develop one. 

Early stage Lyme may present itself with mild flu-like symptoms, fever, headache, stiff neck or a rash that’s so pale or inconspicuous that it’s easily missed. If you get a rash, it may be overlooked as a simple bug or spider bite or even a skin infection.  

Ticks can transmit infection, likely multiple infections, in just a couple of minutes, even seconds. 

If you’ve been bitten by a tick contact a physician right away to begin treatment consideration. The first 24 hours after being bitten are critical to prevention. Save the tick and get it tested. 

You may not exude symptoms right away. The bacteria can harbor in your body for years before symptoms present itself, likely when your immune system is compromised. It is then that this disease will show its face and can lead to a chronic condition. 

No known tick bite

Ticks vary in size and type. That is why many Lyme victims do not recall ever being bitten. 

Ticks are 8 legged and classified in two families, Ixodidae (hard ticks) and Argasidae (soft ticks), each containing different genera and species of ticks. There are more than 800 species of ticks throughout the world and there are several stages to a ticks life cycle, the smallest stages, larva and nymph, which resemble small plant seeds. Therefore, a tick can be as small as a poppyseed, often undetectable. Do you possibly think this size tick could be found in your head of hair? Unlikely. And if on your body, easily mistaken as dirt or a freckle. What then?

This is exactly why symptom awareness at the patient and physician level is just so crucial to combating this disease. Think Lyme.

Removing an attached tick

Ticks are GRRROSSS and yikes you notice one of these nasty creatures burrowed in your skin. What now? Given how quickly infection can be transmitted, it is important to remove it carefully and immediately. 

DO NOT manhandle the tick by aggressive force, pulling, squeezing, ripping off the skin

DO NOT put vaseline over it, or hold a match to it. All of these forceful actions will increase the likelihood of disease transmission

DO remove the tick with fine pointed tweezer

DO grasp it from the side where the tick aligns with the skin, using steady gentle pressure and pull from the opposite direction from which the tick is embedded

DO once released, place the tick in a sealed container or zip-lock bag

DO send the tick out for testing

DO call your physician as soon as possible for immediate preventative treatment consideration instead of waiting for symptoms to appear, when chronic infection will likely set in. You only have a very short window after a tick bite to prevent Lyme disease. ILADS recommends that 'prophylaxis (preventative treatment) be discussed with all who have had a black legged tick bite. An appropriate course of antibiotics has been shown to prevent the onset of infection.