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‘Tis the season to guard against tick bites


Wisconsin is home to three main types of ticks.

One of the most common ones is the deer tick which can give someone Lyme disease.

“It is a smaller tick. It has a burnt red body and it is also the shape of a sesame seed. The smaller ones can be as small as a poppy seed,” said Ashley Johnson. She’s a nurse practitioner at the Aspirus Tick-Borne Illness Center in Woodruff.

They see patients from all around the Midwest for tick-related illnesses.

“I would say our goal here at the Aspirus Tick-Borne Illness Center is to, not only prevent the development of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses but spread knowledge and awareness about tick-borne illness and also provide hope and healing to those chronic Lyme patients that are suffering,” said Johnson.

Wisconsin is one of the states reporting the highest number of Lyme disease cases with more than 3,000 cases in 2020. The CDC estimates the true number of Lyme cases is around 10 times higher than what’s reported.

If left untreated, Lyme disease infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.

Symptoms of Lyme include a bullseye-shaped rash, joint pain that moves around, fever, headache, fatigue, muscle pain, or brain fog.

Johnson recommends seeking treatment if you’ve been bitten by a tick and have any of these symptoms.

“If you do remove a tick, we can send it in for testing to see which pathogens or diseases it’s carrying. We preventatively treat tick bites. So if you remove a tick, we can preventatively treat you depending on the risk level of that tick bite for the development of Lyme disease,” said Johnson.

In most cases, a tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted.

If you remove a tick within 24 hours, you can greatly reduce your chances of getting Lyme disease.

You can also reduce your chances by preventing tick bites in the first place.

Johnson recommends tucking your pants into your socks, wearing tall boots in the woods, using bug spray with at least 30% Deet, and doing a tick check after spending time outside.

“You also want to treat your pet. Dogs, especially dogs that sleep in the beds, are a high risk for bringing ticks into the home. You can use tick collars or oral treatments. But it is good to check your pets for ticks as well as get them preventatively treated,” said Johnson.

Johnson says throwing your clothes in the dryer at high heat for 20 minutes will also kill any ticks on your clothes.

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