Lyme Disease Really Ticks Me Off!
Signs of Lyme disease

Lyme Disease Really Ticks Me Off!

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection you get from a tick infected with borrelia bacteria. Ticks that spread Lyme disease are blacklegged or deer ticks. They are found primarily in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Upper Midwest or Pacific coast of the US. According to the CDC, in 2020 the states with most reported cases of Lyme disease were Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin and Maine. Most tick bites happen in the warmer months, between April and September, but ticks can be present in the early fall or during mild winter weather. For people to contract Lyme disease, an infected tick needs to be attached to the body for 24 hours. So, prevention and detection are crucial to avoiding contracting Lyme disease.

Initial symptoms of Lyme disease include a red rash at the bite site, which most people get. It gets bigger over several days, is not necessarily painful or itchy and can look like a bullseye with a small center in the middle. Along with the rash, people may also experience fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches and swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms generally appear 3-30 days after a tick bite.

If left untreated, more serious symptoms can occur. These include severe headaches, neck stiffness, additional rashes on other parts of the body, facial palsy, arthritis, severe joint pain in knees, heart palpitations, irregular heartbeat (Lyme carditis), dizziness, shortness of breath, inflammation of brain/spinal cord, nerve pain, and numbing, tingling or shooting pain in hands and feet.

Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics, and the earlier treatment occurs, the better. Some patients experience PTLDS (post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome) which can last more than 6 months after treatment. Doctors are not sure why this occurs in some patients, but further treatment is available if PTLDS does occur.

To prevent contracting Lyme disease, avoid grassy, wooded or brushy areas. When hiking, walk in the center of the trail. Use insect repellent containing DEET or other ingredients specifically for repelling ticks. Wear long pants and sleeves and tuck pants into socks. Be sure to check yourself, children and pets daily whenever spending time outdoors. Bites are typically found in hard-to-see areas like groin, armpits and scalp. Remove any ticks you find. In general, you should always save the body of a tick for 30 days in case it needs to be tested later on. You can suffocate a tick in a towel soaked in rubbing alcohol, and keep it in a small, sealed container until the risk of any infections or complications has passed. After removing the tick, clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

According to the CDC, the chance of contracting Lyme disease after a tick bite is 2-3% on average, despite the fact that 20% of ticks carry the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease. If you remove the tick quickly (within a few hours), this halves the chance. Be sure to seek medical attention if you develop any Lyme disease symptoms.

“While treatable and preventable, Lyme disease is no small matter.”


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