SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — If you or your pet have spent some time outside lately, there’s a decent chance you’ve encountered a handful of ticks so far this summer, either crawling up you pant leg, in your pet’s ear or even latched onto you yourself.
Of course, when we think about tick bites, our minds will jump quickly to Lyme disease, though there are others.
“Tick-borne illnesses are relatively rare, but can be very serious,” said Susan Hoover, infectious disease physician at Sanford Health. “In South Dakota, probably the most common one that many people may never have heard of is Tularemia.”
Hoover says we also have some instances of Lyme disease in South Dakota, as well as other diseases like Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which is more rare.
Rare but potentially serious, Hoover says that of these diseases may manifest in humans as a mild illnesses, presenting many of the same symptoms as the flu. “Fevers, chills, body aches — sometimes a rash,” she listed off, “but people can end up being hospitalized for these illnesses — and if untreated, some can be fatal or have other serious long-term outcomes.”
These very common symptoms could make it difficult for a patient to connect their illness with a tick bite that may have occurred days before, so Hoover says it is important to stay vigilant in the days following time spent in an environment where ticks may be present.
“You won’t necessarily find the tick or find the bite, but it’s certainly a good idea to check for ticks after you’ve been outside,” said Hoover. “It’s been rainy, the grass is tall — the bushes are starting to leaf out, so this is the time of year you want to watch out for ticks.”
For a tick that is attached and feeding, Hoover says to use tweezers to securely grab the tick and pull it straight out, being sure not to twist or break the tick in any way that may leave part of the insect lodged in your skin. Also, don’t try to smash it.
Once you’ve removed the tick, Hoover says you don’t need to seek attention immediately, but should instead monitor for symptoms.
Some ticks, Hoover notes, are very small, especially the black-legged tick — known for transmitting Lyme disease — which is about the size of a pencil tip.
Wondering where to check? Hoover outlined some common areas, such as in your hair and in and around your ears, around your waist, under your arms, on the back of your neck and behind your knees.