Lyme disease is on the rise, according to the CDC, and tick bites are the cause. Prevention is key when it comes to protecting yourself from ticks and Lyme disease, especially during the summer months when ticks are widespread.
“If you have been bitten by a tick and develop the following symptoms, you should notify your health care provider. Symptoms include: fever, headache, severe fatigue, joint pain, rash and facial paralysis within 30 days of being bitten by a tick. The rash is characterized by its bulls-eye like appearance,” said Michele Wilbers, infection preventionist at St. Elizabeth.
Early treatment with antibiotics clears up 80 percent of Lyme cases, but the disease often goes undiagnosed. In those cases, chronic problems can develop, including muscle and joint pain, digestive problems, twitching, memory loss, seizures, anxiety and depression, according to an article in Rolling Stone magazine.
A Lyme disease diagnosis is based on signs and symptoms, and a known bite or history of exposure to an infected blacklegged tick. Laboratory tests may be completed in order to diagnosis Lyme disease; however, these tests are not recommended for individuals who do not have the typical symptoms of Lyme disease.
Prevention or reducing exposure to ticks is the best way to defend yourself or your family members against Lyme disease. Wilbers offers additional tips for preventing the disease below.
Preventing tick bites and Lyme disease
Avoid direct contact with ticks
- Avoid tick infested areas such as woody and brushy areas with high grass, especially during the warmer months (April ““ September)
Repel ticks on skin/clothing
- Use an EPA-approved insect repellent on clothes and exposed skin; repellent should contain 20 percent or more concentration of DEET. Remember to follow the products instruction for use; if applying product to children avoid using on hands, eyes and mouth
Find and remove ticks from your body
- Bathe/shower after coming indoors
- Conduct a full body tick check; especially areas such as under the arms, in and around the ears, behind the knees, and in the hair
- Check your outdoor gear and your pets; ticks can attach to clothing, outdoor gear and pets, and then attach onto a person later
- Tumble dry clothing on high heat for 10 minutes after coming indoors; if clothing require washing, a hot water wash is recommended
What should you do if you have a tick bite?
“There is no need to become overly alarmed if you notice a tick attached to your body. Try to safely remove the tick,” Wilbers said.
Use tweezers to remove the tick. When removing, grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible, pull upward with steady, even motion; do not twist. After removing the tick, cleanse the area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol. Dispose of the tick by wrapping it in tape, flushing it down the toilet, or placing it in a sealed bag/container. Do not use petroleum jelly, nail polish, or heat to remove the tick from your skin.