Tips for Lyme Disease Prevention
Beware a Summer Pest
Summer means warmer weather and longer days. While there’s much fun to be had on beaches and hiking trails, there’s also a tiny menace that you need to be aware of whenever you’re spending time outside: the tick.
The blacklegged tick (also known as the deer tick) can transmit Lyme disease through a single bite. To avoid tick bites this season, click through the slideshow to learn about precautions you should take.
Catch It Quickly
Ticks can spread Lyme disease by attaching to your body and transmitting the virus through a bite. However, not all blacklegged ticks can spread infection, and it takes at least 24 hours of attachment to the body before the Lyme disease bacterium is transmitted.
If a tick is promptly found and removed, the infection can be prevented. When Lyme disease is left untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body and become a chronic condition.
Avoid outdoor locations that are wooded, covered in tall grass, or littered with leaf debris, especially during the spring and summer months (April to September). Infected ticks and Lyme disease are more common in the north central and northeastern United States.
Immediately following a hike or other outdoor adventure, check yourself thoroughly for ticks. Be sure to look under your arms, inside ears, in the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and in hair.
Treat outdoor clothing and gear with a product containing permethrin. You can also purchase pre-treated clothing that remains protected for up to 70 washes.
Use a topical insect repellent when spending time outdoors. Visit the EPA’s webpage for a searchable database of EPA-approved insect repellents. Shower promptly to wash away any ticks that may be crawling on your skin and tumble dry your clothes on high heat for one hour to kill any ticks that might be hiding in them.
What to Do If They Find You
If you find a tick on your body, use tweezers to grasp it and pull directly upward. Try to avoid twisting the tweezers as you pull so that you don’t detach the tick’s mouth and leave it in your skin.
After you’ve removed the tick, cleanse the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol. For a diagram and detailed instructions for tick removal, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) webpage.
If you’ve removed a tick from your body, continue to monitor the bite site for signs of a rash. Many people develop a characteristic painless rash a few days to several weeks after the tick bite, often in the shape of a “bull’s-eye:” a red center surrounded by a clear area and a red ring. The rash usually appears within 30 days, often before you develop a fever.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Other tick-borne illnesses have similar symptoms to Lyme disease. The most common signs of any tick-related illness are a fever and chills, rash, and muscle aches. Lyme disease may also involve joint pain. The rash in Lyme disease is a circular rash called erythema migrans.
Contact your doctor immediately if you begin to experience any symptoms characteristic of Lyme disease, such as:
If you seek treatment for Lyme disease soon after being bitten by a tick, you can recover within a few weeks. Oral antibiotics—such as doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime axetil—are the most common treatment for the condition. According to the CDC, 10 to 20 percent of patients may have recurring symptoms even after following appropriate antibiotic treatment.
Enjoy your time outdoors, but always remember to be safe. Lyme disease can be treated at home if caught soon enough; if the disease progresses without treatment, it can result in a severe infection requiring hospitalization.
The sooner Lyme disease is diagnosed and treated, the more likely you are to be cured. If you take the proper precautions, the summer months can be filled with good health and outdoor adventure!