Let’s Talk Ticks and Lyme Disease
Ticks are tiny creatures that don’t look like much of a threat. But deer ticks (black legged ticks) can carry Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that’s spread to human beings through the bite of an infected tick. If Lyme disease is detected early, it usually can be treated with an antibiotic and clears up rather quickly. However, if left untreated, Lyme disease may lead to serious health concerns.
The older we get the higher the risk of complications from Lyme disease, because the immune system weakens in later life and the body does not respond as quickly to treatment as it once did. The disease also can be harder to diagnose in older folks, because many of us have other health concerns with symptoms very similar to those of Lyme disease.
A deer tick may or may not carry Lyme disease. Although not every bite from a deer tick will cause Lyme disease, the chance exists with each bite. So awareness and prevention are important.
Lyme Disease Prevention
- Be wary about ticks. The most common areas where ticks are most abundant include forest, brush, and grassy areas. However, they may also be found in the shrubs and grasses right in your own back yard.
- Cover up. When you’re out in tick-infested areas make sure to wear long pants and sleeves, if possible. Wear socks and tuck your pant legs into your socks. Make sure to wear closed shoes or sneakers, not sandals or open toed shoes. It also helps to wear light colored clothing so ticks are easily seen.
- Use insect repellent made specifically to repel ticks. Follow the directions provided with the repellent, paying attention to all warnings. Cover your exposed skin and clothing. Repellents that contain an ingredient called “DEET” are especially effective against ticks.
- Inspect your skin regularly. Do so while still outdoors and before entering your home. Carefully search through your clothing. Ticks on the body can easily go unnoticed because they usually do not cause pain or discomfort, even when they bite. Ticks often hide in hairy areas of the body, under armpits, behind ears, behind knees, inside the bellybutton, and other spots you might not think of right away. So be diligent.
- Wash and dry clothing at a high temperature. Even if you are not going to wash clothes you’ve been wearing outdoors in a tick infested environment, run the items through a dryer cycle at high heat.
- Remove ticks from skin immediately. Hopefully, you will find any ticks that may be on your body before they have had a chance to spread bacteria. The sooner you remove a tick, the better your chances are of not getting Lyme disease, because it takes quite a while for the bacteria to spread. Your doctor will have suggestions on how to best remove a tick that has attached itself to your body.
Lyme Disease Symptoms
- It is not always easy to know if you’ve been exposed to Lyme disease or even to recognize its symptoms. Different people may exhibit different signs of the disease, and some of its symptoms are very similar to those of other diseases.
- The first sign of Lyme disease is often a reddish circle or rash around the site of a tick bite. The rash may resemble a bull’s eye. It could begin several days after exposure and may grow in size over time. Many people never have a rash or one may appear in a spot they can’t easily see and so goes unnoticed.
- The area around a tick bite is not itchy or painful, and the rash eventually disappears. Other flu-like symptoms – including fatigue, headache, muscle aches, joint pain, and fever – may develop in the weeks following exposure.
Lyme Disease Treatment
- It is vital to seek medical attention for the potential of Lyme disease if you a find a bull’s eye-like rash on your skin or experience unexplained flu-like symptoms. In most cases, Lyme disease is easily treated in its early stages. Most people recover quickly and fully when treated with antibiotics.
- Folks with a later stage of Lyme disease also respond well with antibiotics, although they may require longer treatment. There are instances, however, when there can be some long term health issues that may continue following treatment. This is especially common in cases where someone has had the disease for a quite a while before being treated.