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Ask Dr. Nandi: What to know about ticks and how to spot, get rid of them

Tick bites likely causing thousands to develop meat allergy
Posted at 5:14 PM, Apr 24, 2024

(WXYZ) — Given our warmer winter, experts are predicting a rough tick season ahead. It’s important for residents to be aware of the potential tick-borne diseases they can carry.

Unfortunately, tick-borne diseases are on the rise. Over 90 species of ticks live in the United States and more than 20 can be found in Michigan.

Now, the top five most common ticks in our state, according to 2023 data, are:

The American dog tick, which accounted for 70% of ticks submitted by residents

  • The blacklegged tick at 20%
  • The lone star tick at 5%
  • The woodchuck tick at 3%
  • The brown dog tick at 1%

All of these ticks can potentially carry diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis and tularemia, all of which can be life threatening if not treated. There’s also the Powassan virus, which can cause a brain infection called encephalitis.
However, these are all considered rare. The most common tick-borne disease we see here is Lyme disease, which can be transmitted by the blacklegged tick.

Symptoms people can experience include fever, rash, facial paralysis and arthritis. If left untreated, Lyme disease could spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system.

Ticks go through three life stages: larval, nymph and adult. Larvae have six legs, while nymphs and adults have eight. They’re usually oval-shaped with no wings and relatively small. Their color can range from brown to reddish brown or black. After feeding, they can get bigger and may look darker or even grayish-blue.

Now, ticks love moist areas. So, after being in areas where ticks are active, you need to do a whole-body check once indoors. Be sure to check under the arms, around the ears and inside the belly button.

If you find a tick, use tweezers and grab it as close to the skin as possible. Pull it straight out and then cleanse the skin with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

Of course, many people don’t feel tick bites or even notice them as they can be the size of a sesame seed. So, watch for a bull's-eye-shaped rash, which could indicate a bite.

Keep an eye out for symptoms for up to 30 days. If any develop, see your family doctor right away, as early treatment with antibiotics can reduce the risk of serious complications.

To help prevent tick bites, consider using insect repellent that contains 20% or more DEET, picaridin or IR3535. Also wear pants, socks and shoes treated with permethrin, and avoid grassy, brushy and wooded areas.