Ticks with white dots do not carry Lyme disease.
Lyme disease can only be spread by the black-legged tick, also known as the deer tick. Deer ticks are not simply known for Lyme disease, however. They are responsible for the spread of other diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, and the potentially fatal Powassan Virus. Ticks with white dots in Tennessee are known as Lonestar ticks, and fortunately, they are not spreaders of any of the diseases listed here, but…
What happens if a tick with a white dot bites you?
If a tick with a white dot in Tennessee bites you, the diseases it can spread include Tularemia and Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI).
According to the CDC, tularemia can be life-threatening, but most infections can be treated successfully with antibiotics. Possible symptoms include skin ulcers, swollen and painful lymph glands, inflamed eyes, sore throat, mouth sores, diarrhea or pneumonia. If the bacteria are inhaled, symptoms can include abrupt onset of fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, joint pain, dry cough, and progressive weakness.
As for STARI caused by ticks with a white dot in Tennessee, some people bitten by lone star ticks develop circular rashes that can lead them to believe they’ve been infected with Lyme disease, which can cause a similar looking “bull’s eye” shaped rash. However, the rash caused by lone star tick bites is not related to Lyme disease. In addition to a circular rash, STARI can also cause fatigue, headaches, fevers, and muscle pains – all symptoms that can also be associated with Lyme, hence the possible confusion. Because the conditions can look so similar, it is crucial that doctors consider all possible tick-borne diseases when testing a patient with these symptoms, especially if a Lyme test comes back negative.
The white dot lone star tick is a hard-bodied creature endemic to several states in the Southwest, Southeast, Central South, and Midwest, hence our concern here in Nashville. Interestingly enough, the lone star tick does not get its name from the Texas flag, but rather the single white dots found on the backs of adult female lone star ticks.
This white dot, along with the slightly larger size of lone star ticks compared to other hard-bodied ticks (such as deer ticks), can help identify lone star ticks and thus the diseases you may be at risk for if you are bitten.
If a tick with a white dot in Tennessee bites you, it could be the end of your love affair with red meat.
Much to the chagrin of those victims, lone star ticks can transmit a sugar molecule called alpha-gal that causes a condition known as alpha-gal syndrome. One of the most characteristic signs of this syndrome is a serious allergy to red meat, triggered by the body’s immune reaction to the foreign alpha-gal molecule. The allergy can take months to develop but can be quite severe, possibly leading to anaphylactic shock. People with alpha-gal syndrome experience hives, shortness of breath, diarrhea, swelling of the face and hands, and/or low blood pressure shortly after eating red meat. Doctors recommend that people with alpha-gal syndrome carry an epinephrine pen in case of an emergency.
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