3 Steps to Determine Your Risk of Lyme After Being Bitten by A Tick

Author: Mosquito Squad of Chelmsford & Cambridge

Imagine finding a tick attached to you. Immediately the fear of contracting Lyme disease through this tick bite starts to kick in. Of course, you carefully remove the tick first, but then how will you know if you might have Lyme disease from this tick bite? NPR reported a story of Nick Berndt who recently wondered exactly the same thing.

As a native of Pennsylvania, he knew that when he found a tick attached to his scalp three days after an outing in the woods that he needed to take the chances of Lyme seriously. But how do you know how seriously? Thomas Mather, a professor of public health entomology at University of Rhode Island and the director of Tick Encounter, gives us 3 very specific ways to determine just that. 

WHAT SPECIES OF TICK BIT YOU?

Both from the genus Ixodes, there are only 2 species of ticks that transmit Lyme disease. The black-legged or deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) to the east of the Rocky Mountains and the Western black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus) to the west of the Rockies. Both about the size of a sesame seed, have reddish black bodies. In the nymph stage, these ticks are only the size of a poppy seed. So the first question you can ask yourself is “Was I bitten by this type of tick?” If not, then you can stop concerning yourself with Lyme.

WHERE WERE YOU BITTEN?

In what part of the country that is. If you decide that yes it was a black-legged tick that has bitten you, that doesn’t mean you are sure to come down with Lyme disease. Not all black-legged ticks carry the disease and where you were bitten determines the percentage of risk. In the Northeast and Upper Midwest up to 50% of these species of ticks are infected with Lyme disease, however, in the South and West, less than 10% are infected. So question two in deciding your risk of contracting Lyme is, “In what part of the country was I bitten by a tick?”

HOW LONG HAS THE TICK BEEN ATTACHED?

Well, let’s assume that you’ve been bitten by a black-legged tick somewhere in the Northeast or Upper Midwest portion of the United States. That still doesn’t mean that your risk for Lyme disease is high. There is one more question you need to ask yourself. “How long has this tick been attached to me?” Rick Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York, says that a tick has to be attached for 24 hours to transmit Lyme to its host.  The CDC goes as far as to say 36-48 hours, with one of their epidemiologists that specializes in Lyme disease, Alison Hinckley, even saying that some studies show it takes 48 to 72 hours of tick attachment for it to transmit an infection to a human.

So there you have it, three questions to ask yourself when calculating your risk for Lyme disease after a tick bite. What kind of tick bit me? Where was I when it bit me? How long was this tick attached to me?

Unfortunately, for Berndt, his answers led him to believe he was at high risk. He immediately went to a doctor and began antibiotic treatment. However, let’s remember that there are other diseases out there that ticks can transmit. If you find yourself picking a tick off of you but you don’t fall in a high-risk category based on the above questions, it’s still best to make note of the time, date, and circumstances. Then watch for symptoms for a few weeks. If you were to get sick it is certainly best to be able to give your health care provider as much information as possible.

The risk for all tick-borne diseases is up, so your repellents are necessary. As far as for time spent at home, let Mosquito Squad of Chelmsford & Cambridge be a part of your protection. You don’t have to consider the risk of disease if you don’t have ticks to bite you. Our satisfaction guaranteed services can eliminate 85-90% of ticks. Let us tell you more