With the summer months just ahead, it’s time to start taking early precautions to ward off harmful ticks carrying Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium carried and transmitted by deer ticks, which are so tiny that people often don’t even see them, so they don’t know they’ve been bitten. The bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, is closely related to the one that causes syphilis — both are spirochetes, so named because of their corkscrew appearance.
If you spend any amount of time outside, you should take precautions to prevent them from biting.
Tick repellent tips:
- If you’re going to be out hiking or walking the dog, dress properly.
- Wear long pants and tuck them into your socks. What this does is prevent the ticks from getting to your skin.
- Wear light-colored clothing. If you do get one on your clothes, it will be easier to see it.
- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends using an insect repellent and one with 20% DEET.
- There are also Permethrin based sprays that should only be used on clothing, not on skin. Be sure to read and follow the instructions prior to spraying yourself or your children.
- Pets can also get and transport ticks. Check your dog after spending time outside and before you get in your car. The ticks can crawl off your pets and onto you.
- Your veterinarian can offer ways to keep your pets safe with tick prevention medications. Contact them for more information.
How to remove a tick:
- Use tweezers.
- Pull gently making sure all the tick is removed.
- Clean with soap and water.
Major signs and symptoms of Lyme disease:
- Develop a red rash after their tick bite, a sizable minority do not. If you find a red, circular rash around a bite, call your doctor immediately. They will tell you your best course of action.
- Often have a prolonged fever that doesn’t seem to be connected with a head cold or stomach bug, Norris noted.
- May also suffer from aching muscles.
For people who do get an early diagnosis and treatment, about 10 to 15 percent continue to have symptoms, a disorder experts call post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome or PTLDS.
Symptoms of PTLDS can include:
- profound fatigue
- muscle and joint pain
- thinking and memory problems
- neurological issues
Without knowing the cause of a patient’s symptoms, doctors can’t prescribe the right treatments. Recently, the CDC reported that patients, rightfully or wrongfully, diagnosed with chronic Lyme have been harmed by massive doses of incorrect treatments.
Multiple centers are searching for a more accurate Lyme test, one that detects traces of the actual bacteria in the blood, rather than antibodies. “If the test can more accurately diagnose Lyme early on, it might help researchers get a better understanding of what’s going on with people who have PTLDS,” said Dr. Paul Fiedler, chair of pathology and laboratory medicine at the Western Connecticut Health Network.
Ticks are predicted to be bad this year, but with a few common sense precautions, you can still enjoy the outdoors without worry of being bitten.
Ref. TODAY, Today.com, MSN/lifestyle, cdc.gov.