What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. The bacteria are spread to humans by infected ticks. The ticks that carry Lyme disease tend to be very small. Usually about 1/8 inch (3 mm) long, and are of the types Ixodes, Amblyomma americanum or Dermacentor variabilis. Ticks may also transmit other tick-borne diseases such as Anaplasmosis and babesiosis. Although Lyme disease is not transmitted from person-to-person like flu or measles, it can be spread from one generation of ticks to another via eggs laid by females who fed on an infected animal, so it can be hard to control even in areas where there are few humans for them to bite. The symptoms are often similar for all three diseases, but each has unique ones as well; for example, with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) there will be fever and pinkish spots on your body, whereas with Anaplasmosis, you might have difficulty breathing due to lung involvement or abdominal pain if your kidneys were affected during your time travelling abroad.
When and where are ticks most active?
Ticks are most active in the spring and summer. This is because they need time to mate, which happens in the spring, so they’re not going to be as active during the cold winter months. The other reason why ticks are more active during these seasons is that there’s more food available for them when there’s plenty of foliage on trees and shrubs in your yard—like leaves and grasses that have just started growing back after being dormant all winter long.
Ticks are also much more likely to come into contact with humans during these times because people spend more time outdoors enjoying nature than any other time of year (and therefore increasing their risk of encountering a tick). If you live near wooded areas or parks, you’ll want to stay away from those areas, especially those with tall grasses where ticks could hide out until they’re ready for a meal!
The best ways to prevent tick bites include:
- Wearing light-colored clothing with long sleeves and pants. The ticks are easier to spot if they’re on your clothes, so be sure to tuck your pants into your socks.
- Avoiding bushy areas where ticks like to hide, such as tall grass and thick brush. If you must go through these areas, do so quickly, preferably wearing long pants and brushing yourself off afterward.
- Using insect repellent containing DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) is highly recommended when walking in woods or other areas where ticks could be present. It’s important not only as a tick repellent but also as an insect repellent against mosquitoes that can transmit diseases like the West Nile virus and malaria.
Deer ticks can spread Lyme disease
It’s essential to recognize deer ticks since they’re the most common type of tick found in North America. They’re tiny (no bigger than the head of a pin) and can be hard to see on you or your loved ones.
Deer ticks are more likely to carry Lyme disease bacteria than other ticks in the United States, but they do not spread all the different forms of Lyme disease that humans can get from tick bites. For example, they cannot transmit Anaplasmosis or Babesiosis or cause Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI).
Deer ticks are active in spring through fall and are prevalent throughout New England and parts of upper New York state into northern Ohio and West Virginia (though their range has expanded dramatically over recent years).
A rash around the bite is a sign of Lyme disease
If you do develop a rash, it may appear anywhere from three to 30 days after the bite. It will likely look like a bull’s eye around the bite site and may be flat or raised. It may also appear red and warm to the touch, which can make it more noticeable than other skin conditions.
This is why it’s important to treat any suspicious-looking lesions as soon as they appear, even if they’re not associated with Lyme disease.
Lyme disease symptoms may not show up for weeks or even months.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention:
- A skin rash with a bulls-eye appearance that typically appears around an infected tick bite. The rash can be red, purple, or brownish and may not appear until several days or weeks after being bitten by an infected tick.
- Flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and fatigue for weeks or months after being bitten by an infected tick (this is called Lyme disease’s “early” phase).
- Painful inflammation of the joints (arthritis) that develops during or shortly after this early phase (this is called Lyme disease’s “late” phase).
There is a treatment for Lyme disease, but it must be caught early.
Symptoms and Treatment
If you have Lyme disease, early treatment is key to recovery. Of course, this can be difficult because Lyme disease symptoms are similar to those of other illnesses and rashes—it can be hard to tell if your sickness is caused by Lyme or something else. However, there are several Lyme disease symptoms you should look out for:
- Swollen lymph nodes near your armpits or groin
- Muscle pain or joint swelling that gets worse with activity (as opposed to gradually improving)
Preventing tick bites is the key to preventing Lyme disease.
To prevent tick bites, wear long sleeves and pants when you’re outside. Tuck your shirt into your pants to keep ticks from crawling up your legs.
If you or your children go outdoors, check them for ticks after they’ve been playing in the grass or woods. If you find a tick on someone, remove it right away using fine-tipped tweezers (see instructions below) or a tick removal tool. Don’t use matches, gasoline, kerosene or other harsh methods to remove a tick.
Also, treat your pets with flea and tick prevention products, so they don’t bring any hitchhikers home with them!
To prevent ticks from getting into yards:
Treat lawns with sprays containing an insecticide called permethrin once every three months during the spring months when ticks are most active in search of hosts like deer, mice and squirrels (which can then pass Lyme disease bacteria on to other animals).
Now that you are aware of the symptoms and treatments and how to prevent tick bites, it’s time to take action and protect yourself against Lyme disease. The best way to do so is by taking preventive measures. If a tick bite cannot be prevented, take the necessary steps to collect the tick to have it tested or contact your healthcare provider right away. Prevention is key when dealing with this disease, but if you sadly get infected by ticks, knowing what signs and symptoms are associated with Lyme disease can help you get treated early and avoid serious complications later on. Have you or a family member ever come into contact with pesky ticks? Leave a comment down below sharing your experiences, we’d highly appreciate it!