A popular pastime among the inhabitants of the valley, as if it were a precious hunting animal, is to present freshly picked mites to clinic staff.
This usually begins in early spring and lasts until early winter. It’s fun trying to properly identify these spooky crawlers, but a common misconception is that you should only be afraid of black-footed mites (commonly known as deer ticks). Here in the eastern United States, there are many types of ticks that can transmit the disease, including ticks, American dog ticks, and ticks.
In addition to Lyme disease, mites across the country have many diseases. These include anaplasmosis, babesiosis, boleria mayoni, borrelia miyamotoi, bourbon virus, Colorado tick fever, ehrlichiosis, heartland virus, Lyme disease, poissan disease, rickettsia disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, STARI, tick-borne relapse. Fever, rickettsiae, mites-bite flesh allergy.
Did you catch the last one? Meat allergy bitten by ticks. Google it.
Another common misconception is that mites themselves cause illness. In most cases, mites are vectors (carriers) of bacteria and viruses. Depending on the duration and extent of tick attachment, these harmful pathogens can infect humans and spread through the bloodstream. Therefore, it is these pathogens that actually cause the disease. Thus, mites are a prolific spreader of these diseases.
Recognizing certain tick-borne diseases can be particularly difficult for clinicians, as many of these diseases show similar symptoms. Fever, chills, muscle and joint pain, malaise, numbness, rash.
These may or may not refer to tick-borne diseases and should be considered in appropriate circumstances. Specifically, have you ever been bitten by a tick? If so, how long has it been installed? Was the tick embedded? Did you get engorged?
These questions can lead the prescriber to recommend antibiotics, but often require more testing, especially if you have no history of tick bites. In this case, the provider can order a full tick panel, but this also has its limitations. If you have any of the above signs or symptoms, it is advisable to see your doctor or your local clinic. However, of particular concern is the so-called “bull’s eye rash,” which is almost synonymous with Lyme disease. If you experience this or a rash associated with it after being bitten by a tick, please come and evaluate. Early treatment of Lyme disease is usually very effective and can prevent the development of many complications.
Unfortunately, Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases are endemic to where we live, and those who never leave home (not recommended) will take you to a tick habitat. Let’s do it.
Spray 0.5% permethrin on your boots, socks and trousers when gardening, hiking or cycling in the woods. There are many insect repellents you can use on your skin, but be sure to check out the search tools. epa.gov Check if they are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency.
Don’t forget to check your pet’s ticks regularly as pet fur can fall into your home. Talk to your veterinarian about tick prevention products for your dog. Finally, take a shower as soon as possible after spending time outdoors. Check your armpits, groin, and skin folds for mites. Finding mites before they attach is very important in preventing disease.
Chris Palentchar is a nationally certified GP assistant to the Saco River Medical Group. He has lived and worked in Mount Washington Valley with his wife and daughter for seven years. When you’re not in the office, you can enjoy snowboarding, mountain biking and hiking throughout White Mountain. He accepts patients if he wants to talk about a tick-stabbed meat allergy, or if he needs an attending physician.
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