Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted through the bite of a deer tick. Most of the time, Lyme disease can be completely treated with a course of antibiotic treatment. However, if left untreated, Lyme disease can have some very serious side effects including muscle and joint pain accompanied by a rash (typically a bull's-eye pattern) and fever. If left untreated for too long, the bacterial infection can spread to the heart and central nervous system.
Even though Lyme disease can be treated, it is best to try and protect yourself as much as possible. Here are some tips to help you avoid tick bites, and what to do in the event you find a tick or get bitten:
1.Ticks live in moist and humid wooded, leafy, or grassy areas. Whenever you are in areas where ticks are most likely to live, take extra precaution and be sure to check yourself for ticks. Keep your lawn mowed and free of overgrowth to prevent your yard from becoming host to ticks.
2.Wearing long sleeves and long pants and socks can help keep ticks from getting onto your skin and biting you. You can also wear clothes pretreated with Permathrin, an insecticide, when you know you will be in areas where ticks like to live.
3.Use insect repellent that contains at least 20-30% DEET. Be sure to spray the repellent on your skin and clothing.
4.Use the trail when hiking through the woods. The center of the trail is best. Well worn trails are often mostly dirt, sand, and rock with little in the way of grass and leaves where you are more likely to encounter ticks.
5.Check yourself and your clothes for ticks after you've been outside. Be sure to check under your arms, in and around your ears, inside your belly button, behind your knees, in and around your hair, between your legs and around your waist. If you have little ones or pets, be sure to check them for ticks, too.
6.Finding ticks on your clothes, especially dark clothes like blue jeans, can be difficult. Once you get home from a moist and humid wooded, leafy, or grassy area and check yourself for ticks, wash your clothing with hot water and dry them on high heat for at least an hour to kill any ticks you may have overlooked.
7.When ticks bite, they burrow into your skin and will remain there for several days unless removed. Just because you have been bitten does not mean you will automatically get Lyme disease. Not all ticks are carriers or infected with Lyme. For those that are infected, it takes a while for it to transmit Lyme disease to its host; so it is important to remove the tick as soon as possible.
8.To remove the tick, use fine tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, and pull it straight out. You want to remove the entire tick; you don't the mouth parts of the tick to remain in your skin. Whether you are able to get the entire tick out or not, thoroughly wash the area with soap and water, iodine, or rubbing alcohol after removing the tick.
9.Monitor the bite in the days and weeks after removal. If you develop a bull's eye rash, see a doctor immediately for treatment. A rash may not always appear with Lyme, so continue to monitor yourself and see a doctor if you have any other symptoms such as fever or achiness.
Summer should be a time to enjoy the great outdoors. Taking a few extra precautions to protect yourself from tick bites will help you enjoy it even more! For more information, contact your primary care physician at Community Care Physicians about protection and treatment for tick bites.