Lyme Disease “Need to Knows”
It’s good to be on the lookout for ticks this time of year, as you and your family enjoy the nice weather and outdoor activities it provides. In particular, the blacklegged tick which transmits the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi (say that five times fast!) to humans which can cause Lyme disease. The best time for transmission is often in spring and early summer.
Now, don’t go and cancel all your family’s spring and summer activities just yet. Equipped with the proper information, you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful outdoors without worrying about those terrible ticks. Here are some “need to knows” for you and your family:
The first thing you can do to help your family avoid getting bitten by ticks is to be properly prepared. Make sure you are using insect repellent when you go outside and be sure to wear long pants and sleeves if you’re going to be out in wooded areas. After a day outdoors, it’s always good to take the time to check your family quick. Ticks can attach to any part of your body, but are often found in hard-to-see areas like your groin, armpits and scalp.
If you do find a tick on you or someone else, remove it quickly with a fine-tipped set of tweezers. Grasp it as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pull up with steady, even pressure. After removal, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water. Don’t believe old wives’ tales like removing the tick with heat. Just get it out as quick as possible and watch the area for infection. In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36-48 hours before transmitting the disease.
For 70-80 percent of people infected with Lyme disease, a “bull’s eye” rash will occur after a delay of three to 30 days post bite (seven days is the average). It will gradually expand over several days and can reach up to 12 inches across, resulting in a “bull’s eye” appearance. The rash will feel warm to the touch, but is rarely itchy or painful. Other symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, chills, muscle and joint aches and swollen lymph nodes.
If left untreated, the infection can spread to other parts of the body and cause additional rashes, loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face (facial or Bell’s palsy), meningitis, arthritis in large joints (especially the knees), heart palpitations, dizziness and neurological discomforts.
Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. For those diagnosed later with the disease, they may have persistent or recurrent symptoms. These individuals are considered to have Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome or “chronic Lyme disease” and will require long-term treatment.
If you think there is a possibility that you are suffering from Lyme disease, or you want more information on the subject, don’t hesitate to contact your health care professional as quickly as possible.