SAN DIEGO, Calif. – A California woman is warning others about ticks after having a painful pumpkin patch experience.
Jennifer Velasquez, 27, had come home from a trip to a pumpkin patch when she started getting red bumps across her body.
Velasquez eventually sought medical treatment and was diagnosed with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a disease spread by ticks.
“I couldn’t walk, my whole body was in pain, my hair fell out, and I almost died,” Velasquez wrote in a now viral Facebook post.
Although Velasquez said the incident happened to her two years ago, she said she is still recovering.
“I’m still healing from all this,” she said. “Don’t be dumb and wear flip-flops like me.”
While Velasquez said her experience with the disease has been horrifying, she does not want to discourage others from going to pumpkin patches.
“Just be sure to cover up when you go, and do a tick check when you get home,” she said.
Oklahoma ranks among the states with the highest rate of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, ehrlichiosis and tularemia in the country. Since 2012, there have been approximately 2,000 cases of the illnesses among Oklahoma residents.
Earlier this month, an Oklahoma woman was diagnosed with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever after being bitten by a tick while walking her dog.
In the past five years, four Oklahomans died due to tickborne diseases.
Symptoms of a tickborne illness may include fever, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, fatigue, skin rash and painful swelling of lymph nodes near the bite.
Health experts say symptoms usually occur three to 14 days after a tick bite.
However, officials say most of the diseases can be treated successfully with antibiotics if they are caught early.
The Center for Disease Control says the disease can rapidly progress to a serious and life-threatening illness. See your health care provider if you become ill after having been bitten by a tick or having been in the woods or in areas with high brush where ticks commonly live.
Signs and symptoms can include:
- Stomach pain
- Muscle pain
- Lack of appetite
Before You Go Outdoors
- Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or even on animals, so spending time outside camping, gardening, or hunting could bring you in close contact with ticks. Many people get ticks in their own yard or neighborhood.
- Treat clothing and gear with products containing permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, or 2-undecanone. EPA’s helpful search tool can help you find the product that best suits your needs. Always follow product instructions.
- Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.
- Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) on children under 3 years old.
- Outdoor workers can find additional information at the NIOSH Tick-borne Diseases Safety and Health Topic.
After You Come Indoors
Check your clothing for ticks. Ticks may be carried into the house on clothing. Any ticks that are found should be removed. Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks effectively.
Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.
Check your body for ticks after being outdoors. Conduct a full body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas, which even includes your back yard. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Check these parts of your body and your child’s body for ticks:
- Under the arms
- In and around the ears
- Inside belly button
- Back of the knees
- In and around the hair
- Between the legs
- Around the waist
What to Do if You Find an Attached Tick
Remove the attached tick as soon as you notice it by grasping with tweezers, as close to the skin as possible, and pulling it straight out. For detailed information about tick removal, see the tick removal page.
Watch for signs of illness such as rash or fever in the days and weeks following the bite, and see a health care provider if these develop. Your risk of acquiring a tick-borne illness depends on many factors, including where you live, what type of tick bit you, and how long the tick was attached. If you become ill after a tick bite, see a health care provider.