Getting Sick from Ticks

JONESBORO, AR -- It's a scary thing to know that something outside, maybe even in our own backyards, could cause us to get sick. We're talking about ticks, or tick-borne illnesses.

Dr. David Matthews, a Jonesboro Pediatrician says each year he tries to tell his patients just how important it can be to avoid getting sick from a tick.

"Any of them are actually just infections that the tick itself carries and then when they bite us, the longer they're on, the more likely we are to actually get the infection from the tick," says Dr. Matthews.

They carry what's called tick-borne diseases, or rickettsial diseases. The 3 most common are Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease and Erlichiosis. Just recently, a Missouri child died from a rare case of Erlichiosis after being bitten by a tick in the northeastern part of the state. Health officials believe the child may have been bitten days or weeks before ever being treated for the illness.

"If we have a tick check every 6 hours on kids, the likelihood of tick-borne disease is so much less. It actually takes 6 to 12 hours biting, exchanging spit for our blood, that's the real transfer," says Dr. Matthews.

So checking yourself or your children often can really be a savior.

"They smell our sweat. So, if we're playing out and getting sweaty, if they're there, they can leap on us and it's where ever we have sweat," says Dr. Matthews.

Dr. Matthews says there are usually a list of symptoms he tells his patients and parents to be aware of.

"If you know you've had a tick bite and you start having fever, usually 102, 103 and a headache and you don't see anything else, then it's time to worry about tick disease a little bit. If you start getting a purple spot rash on your skin anywhere, then it's high time to start worrying about tick borne diseases," says Dr. Matthews.

So, this time of year, if you or your children are going to be outside, health officials say it's a must to check for tick bites.

"Tick prevention with the checks and the DEET for the prevention of getting attached to them. That's our 2 best defenses," adds Dr. Matthews.

Again, it really is unlikely that person will contract a tick-borne disease within the first few hours after the bite, so if ticks are found and removed quickly, the danger is greatly reduced.