AUSTIN (KXAN) — As more people get outside, there’s a hidden pest that could make you very sick. Be on the lookout for ticks.
If not careful, you can get Lyme disease from a tick bite. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, estimates suggest about 476,000 people may get Lyme disease each year in the country.
Philip Boyd was hiking in the mountains of North Carolina when he picked up a tick.
“It was under my armpit, in my armpit, under my arm. It was very tiny, so it was hard to see,” he said.
He didn’t notice if for days, but when he got home to Smithville, he started feeling bad.
“It started as me feeling lethargic; I was tired. And I thought it was the Texas heat. It’s starting to get really hot, so I just assumed that was what it was,” he said.
His fever got up to 104 degrees. That’s when he went to the hospital and found out he had contracted Lyme disease.
“We have ticks all year-round of different species, but the majority of them are found in their adult stage basically May to October,” said entomologist Sonja Swiger.
She said locally, there are about six species of tick. The Deer Tick, or blacklegged tick, is the only one that can spread Lyme disease.
“We have that species here, but we usually in lowered concentration than in other states,” she explained.
But you won’t always get sick from a tick bite.
“In general, you want to be cautious,” Swiger said. “Ticks are blood feeders, and that is never exciting to have a tick on you, but there are also diseases that they can transmit.”
If you find a tick, it’s best to remove it as quickly as you can. Bug sprays can help keep them off your skin, but it’s also good to check yourself thoroughly if you have been in a wooded area or even around your pets.
“If you are taking animals, you definitely want to check them, too. Especially if you aren’t using a preventative,” Swiger said.
Ticks can hide in areas you might not think. That’s why Boyd said next time he looks, he will be a little more thorough.
“I will be checking for ticks for the rest of my life,” he said.
When removing a tick, you should use tweezers and make sure to remove the head. You may have heard about using a match to burn them out, but experts said that can actually cause the tick to be agitated and release harmful pathogens.
Lyme disease can sometimes be hard to diagnose. The symptoms are similar to many other health issues, like a fever, headache, muscle pain or rash. Also the blood tests may not be dependable, especially if you test too early and don’t have the antibodies yet.