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Healthy Balance

Tick Bite Prevention: How to Avoid Lyme Disease & Meat Allergies this Summer

deer tick on a blade of grass

You may be outside even more than usual this summer, enjoying local parks and hiking trails. Although outdoor activities are great for de-stressing and exercise, they do come with a risk: tick-borne illness. But you don’t have to stay inside for tick bite prevention.  

Lyme Disease: A Common Tick-borne Illness

More U.S. residents get Lyme disease in July than any other month of the year. This bacterial infection spreads from deer ticks to humans. Its first symptom is often the characteristic tick bite rash. This is a red rash with a clear center, like a bull’s eye shape. Other symptoms may resemble the flu, including:

Later, you may develop many more lyme disease symptoms. This disease responds well to antibiotics, but you may need to take them for 3 weeks or longer.

Other Diseases from Tick Bites

Lyme disease is probably top of mind when you think of tick-borne illnesses. But every year, UVA also sees cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis. These diseases also start with flu-like symptoms and rashes, and they can be fatal if you don’t get quick treatment.

Researchers are also still discovering the ways you can get sick from ticks. According to the CDC, over the last two decades, experts identified seven new tick-borne illnesses.

Meat Allergies from Ticks

More than a decade ago, UVA allergist Thomas Platts-Mills found that a lone star tick bite could cause the body to produce antibodies that bind to a sugar in red meat. Then, victims had allergic reactions several hours after eating the meat.

Researchers have since found that the allergy is common in at least 14 states, including Virginia.

Are Fire Ants Good Tick Bite Prevention?

Recently, UVA researchers found that people are less likely to have meat allergies in places where fire ants are common, such as the Gulf Coast and Texas. They believe the ants either prey on or compete with the ticks.

Worried about Tick-Borne Illness?

If you're experiencing severe symptoms after a tick bite, see an infectious disease specialist.

As the ants gradually move northward, meat allergy cases may decrease in other states. But that’s not necessarily good news — fire ants have a nasty bite that can also cause a severe allergic reaction.

Video: Tick Bite Prevention

Nobody wants to spend the summer recovering from one of these illnesses. But don’t let a fear of ticks keep you inside. These tick bite prevention tactics will help you safely enjoy your favorite hiking trails. Watch the video to learn more.

View Transcript
Transcript: Be aware and be prepared. Use repellents on clothes and animals. Whenever possible, avoid where ticks live: tall grass, thick bushes, wooded areas. Check, check, check. Be sure to check for ticks after being outside. For attached ticks, remove with tweezers as close to your skin as possible and clean with alcohol and soap. Watch the spot. If a rash or fever develops, see your doctor immediately.

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