By: Diane Marchesani DO Infectious Diseases Specialist, AtlanticCare.com
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection (carried by) infected ticks. We suspect that many cases of Lyme disease are caused by ticks which are often too small to feel and are easy to overlook. You’re not as likely to miss an adult tick bite.
Of course, the best way to address Lyme disease is through prevention:
· Wear bug spray with DEET to deter ticks – and other disease-carrying insects like mosquitos, when you are outdoors.
· Wear long pants, long sleeves, long socks and gloves – as appropriate – if you are going into deeply wooded areas.
· Check for ticks on your clothing and on your body when you return indoors. Have a friend or family member scan you, and return the favor.
· Watch for ticks indoors for several days following a long stint of time spent outdoors.
· Protect animals who spend time outdoors with the appropriate medication. Dogs can contract Lyme disease, and can also bring ticks into the house, where they have access to you and your family.
The hallmark Lyme disease rash, also called erythema migrans, is a red dot or circle at the site of the bite, surrounded by a ring of normally colored skin and then a ring of red, which can be up to 12” in diameter.
Other early symptoms include fever, flu-like symptoms, headache, body aches, and malaise. Remember, not all people who contract Lyme disease will experience the bulls eye rash, so visit your healthcare provider if you have been bitten by a tick and are experiencing other symptoms.
If you are bitten, the risk of transmission for Lyme disease is very low if the tick is removed in less than 48 hours. What to do if you’re bitten:
· Safely remove tick with tweezers. Grasp the tick close to your skin, and pull straight up.
· Some people will have a localized reaction: redness, itching or irritation at the site of the bite. If this occurs within three days, it is merely a reaction to the bite, and should subside within several days.
· Monitor the area of the bite. You do not need medical treatment unless you develop symptoms of Lyme disease.
· Watch for a bull’s eye rash, the classic Lyme disease indicator. This can appear between three days and one month after you’ve been bitten. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
If left untreated, Lyme disease can progress: symptoms include Bell’s palsy – drooping facial muscles; joint pain and swelling, particularly at large joints, such as the knees; severe headaches and stiffness of the neck.
For most patients, Lyme disease can be well handled with a series of antibiotics – amoxicillin or doxycycline, which your healthcare provider will prescribe. In short, vigilance – both in prevent tick bites and in seeking medical attention when necessary – will serve you well as you venture outdoors this summer.