People hiking and exercising outdoors should be on the lookout for ticks this summer.
Ticks can often be found in tall, grassy, and wooded areas.
Ticks that burrow in the skin can lead to much more critical outcomes, including Lyme disease.
“I had really bad nerve and muscle pain and went to the E.R. a couple of times and we couldn't really figure it out,” said Tristan Thorson, a San Luis Obispo resident.
“It stems from a tick bite, typically a bacterium,” explained Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center Infection Control and Preventionist Chris Ecker. “If that bacterium gets into the bloodstream, it can create the issues that are known as Lyme disease.”
The disease is less common in California.
“Lyme disease is maybe not necessarily anything we see too often here,” Ecker said. “It is more of an East Coast, Upper Midwest kind of disease.”
“As I talk about this with my doctors, it's really uncommon on the West Coast,” Thorson added. “You have to go to a lot of these specialists about it.”
The disease still can be caught in the state, even with it being less common in the region.
“I was living in San Luis Obispo while this happened, and I had been in San Luis Obispo for about six months before I had experienced really severe symptoms,” Thorson said.
Thorson says she believes she may have gotten the disease by ticks spreading to her from her dogs.
“I constantly let them sleep in my bed, even though I knew they had ticks on them,” Thorson said. “I never really known the repercussions of that.”
“Dogs, deer, that sort of thing are big carriers for ticks,” Ecker said.
Extended Lyme disease can result in joint pain, fatigue, headaches, and brain fog.
“The initial symptoms typically are a rash, maybe a fever, but that's only in about 80% of cases,” Ecker said.
Thorson says she experienced every major symptom the disease presented.
“In a month or two, I'll be a lot better and hopefully not experience any more Lyme’s pain again,” Thorson said.
“The best way to find out if you have Lyme disease or not is to get an order from your doctor for a Lyme disease test,” Ecker said. “It's a pretty simple blood test. It'll let them know whether or not you have Lyme disease in your bloodstream.”
Chemical repellents can be used to prevent tick bites.
It is recommended to cover the skin as much as possible to avoid tick bites while outdoors.
If a tick is found on the skin, it is recommended that tweezers are used to remove the tick.
If a person gets a tick bite, it is recommended they wash the area with alcohol.
If the tick can’t be removed, medical attention should be sought immediately.