After a recent trip to Mississippi, my 8-year-old son returned with a bad souvenir: a fat black tick with flesh below his waist.
He may have found it when we returned to Alabama and was walking in the woods around Oxford the day before. The child is a magnet for blemishes and rashes, so he is not afraid of eight-legged pests that penetrate the skin under his abdomen.
But I was. I grew up in central Texas, where there are a lot of mosquitoes and fire ants, but not many ticks or tick-borne diseases.
My husband destroyed the insects with tweezers and we put it in a Ziploc plastic bag. I immediately called her pediatrician and asked if I should see a doctor. The nurse said no, but suggested that the mites be sent to a laboratory that identified them and analyzed the pathogens.
The largest of these laboratories, the Pennsylvania Tick Research Laboratory, began testing mites in 2005. Their website, launched in 2019, has made it easier for people to send ticks for testing, says lab director Nicole Chinchi. The laboratory can detect between 20,000 and 30,000 ticks each year to identify and test for pathogens.
“When they test a tick, they get information about what kind of tick it is, so we determine its genus and species, its stage of life, and estimate how long the tick can last. Attached and fed to give you a better understanding of your risk, ”Chinchi said.
The lab offers three types of panels, from basic screening for the most common tick-borne diseases to advanced screening for rare pathogens. It is not a diagnostic test and therefore cannot be used to pay for health insurance and health savings accounts. The base panel costs $ 50, and even more options can cost up to $ 175.
“It’s really important to check for ticks,” Chinchi said. “This is the first step in diagnosing a tick-borne illness. There are typical symptoms of tick-borne diseases and they are more common among the diseases we see, especially with COVID, so there are a lot of misdiagnosis.
If you are infected with a tick, it is important to get treatment as soon as possible, Chinji said.
Dr. Walter Schrading, an expert in desert medicine at the UAB Hersinki School of Medicine, said the type of tick test may be needed in the Northeast and Midwest areas where Lyme disease is prevalent. He does not recommend keeping ticks from sticking to humans or animals.
“The first thing is to remove the tick as soon as possible,” Schrading said. “It’s best to use tweezers and hold the head of the tick as close to the skin as possible, and then slowly pull it straight back with constant pressure.”
It takes time for ticks to transmit bacteria or other pathogens to humans or pets, Schrading said.
“If a tick sticks in less than 24 hours, it can’t spread any of the disease,” Schrading said.
Wearing long sleeves and pants and using insect repellents with DEET can prevent tick-borne diseases. He also recommends checking for ticks after a walk. People should pay special attention to the scalp, armpits, hips and around the waist, and examine themselves or their partner to the end of the head. Prompt removal of mites reduces the risk of Lyme disease or rickettsiosis.
The most common symptom of tick-borne diseases is rash. Lyme disease can often be detected by rashes in the eyes of a bull, and spot fever in Rocky Mountains can cause red spots or spots that appear a day or two after the fever.
“The thing to look at is if the area where the tick bites turns red after a day or two, or if you see enlarged red rashes around the wound, especially rashes associated with Lyme disease,” Schrading said. “Or you get a flu-like flu after a tick bite.”
Our laboratory found that our son’s tick was the only star tick. It was negatively tested for Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain fever. It’s reassuring, though unnecessary.
But next time, I may not be able to keep the tick.
“Most of the time, no, you don’t have to keep the tick,” Schrading said. “Pour it down the toilet or throw it in the trash.”