Learn the basics & share them
WHAT IS LYME DISEASE?
Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that affects the lives of millions each year. It’s caused by a spirochete-a corkscrew-shaped bacterium called Borrelia Burgdorferi. The infection rate is rising. The CDC estimates that in the U.S. Lyme Disease infects over 300,000 people each year.
Lyme disease is called “The Great Imitator” because its symptoms mimic many other diseases. It can affect any system of the body, including the brain and nervous system, muscles and joints, and the heart.
HOW IS IT CONTRACTED?
People get Lyme from the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Nymphal or immature ticks that are about the size of a poppy seed and cause the most infections in humans. Because they are so tiny and their bite is painless, many people do not even realize they have been bitten. Adult ticks also transmit the disease.
Once a tick has attached, if undisturbed it may feed for several days. The longer it stays attached, the more likely it will transmit the Lyme bacteria and other harmful infections into your bloodstream.
Many experts believe that in most cases, the tick must be attached for more than 24 hours to transmit the Lyme bacteria. Other tick-borne diseases may transmit faster than Lyme. There is a lot of debate in the medical field about the time frame of disease transmission. You can find more information about this in the Resources section.
WHERE IS IT CONTRACTED?
Ticks live in the woods and grassy areas, including backyards and parks. They thrive in dark, humid places.
While the disease is most prevalent in the Northeast and upper Midwest, the ticks that carry Lyme disease are spreading, and now live in almost half of our nation’s counties — including places in the South, and on the West Coast. Documented infection rates have increased significantly 340% between 1993-2013 (CDC).
Outside of the U.S., ticks carry the disease in forested areas on Asia, northwestern, central and Eastern Europe, according to the World Health Organization.
WHEN ARE TICKS ACTIVE?
• April-May: The beginning of tick season.
• June-July: Peak season for nymphs and the highest risk time to become infected.
• August: early September – Risk may decrease because this is when ticks molt into adults.
• Late September – October: Peak season for adult ticks and a high-risk time for infection.
• Colder months: This is the lowest risk time of the year. Deer ticks are inactive below 35 degrees. Unfortunately, they may seek a host in places where the sun has melted snow and warmed leaf litter.
PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY FROM TICKS
• Wear light colored clothing.
• Cover wrists and ankles. Tuck pants into socks and opt for long-sleeves.
• Wear clothing made with Insect Shield technology.
• Spray it. Spray your outdoor clothing with Permethrin, which kills ticks on contact. Never spray it on skin.
• Wear insect repellant with at least 20% DEET (to repel ticks for at least 4 hours). Spray it on outdoors. Wash off when you come go in.
• Know your surroundings
• Avoid tall grasses and humid, wooded, leaf-littered areas.
• Do not sit on logs
• Stay on trails
• Ticks live in yards and parks too.
TICK CHECK IT.
• Check yourself and your family for ticks!
• Shower after being outdoors to wash off ticks that have not attached.
• Put your clothing into the dryer on high heat for 10-15 minutes (when coming indoors). Heat kills ticks.
• Check for ticks after being outdoors.
• Check sides of body
• Groin area
• Back of your knee
• Under armpits
• Back of neck
• Tight places (belt area, watch strap, underneath hairline)
• Check pets too!
Make tick checks a part of your daily routine. Check yourself and your family every night before dressing for bed.
TICK REMOVAL AND TESTING
• Remove tick immediately
• Use pointy tip tweezers
• Grab tick close to skin and use slow, steady motion to pull tick upward and away from the skin.
• Do not twist, jerk or agitate the tick while removing.
• After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
• Identify tick
• Save or flush down the toilet
• Consider having the tick tested for harmful diseases. Learn More
CALL YOUR DOCTOR
• If a tick has been attached for more than 24 hours (Transmission time is debatable, use your best judgment.)
• If you are not able to remove a tick.
MANAGE YOUR PROPERTY
• Ticks are not only in the woods; they are IN YOUR BACKYARD!
• Start by putting distance between tick habitat and people habitat.
• Keep play sets away from woodland edges
• Keep grass mowed
• Clear leaf litter and brush
• Build fences to keep deer out
• Let the sunshine in. Ticks don’t like dry, sunny places.
• Consider using acaricides (tick-killing pesticides)
SYMPTOMS, DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT
SYMPTOMS AND DIAGNOSIS
Symptoms of Lyme Disease may present as:
• Flu-like symptoms (fever, chills, sweats, muscle aches, fatigue, nausea and joint pain).
• Headaches or stiff neck
• Swollen lymph nodes
• Fatigue or lack of energy
• Poor memory or inability to concentrate
• Bell’s palsy (facial paralysis).
• Rash shaped like a bull’s-eye is considered characteristic of Lyme disease, but many people develop a different kind of Lyme rash or none at all. Estimates of patients who develop a Lyme rash vary widely, ranging from about 30% to 80%.
• Heart palpitations
CALL YOUR DOCTOR:
• If you develop flu-like symptoms-fatigue, fever, aches, joint pain or a rash. (A fever or flu in the summer is likely to be a sign of a vector borne illness.)
• If a tick has been attached for more than 24 hours (transmission time is debatable, use your best judgment)
• If you are not able to remove a tick.
If you feel you doctor is not listening to you, find another doctor. Be your own advocate!
Lyme disease is diagnosed based on:
• Signs and symptoms
• A history of possible exposure to infected blacklegged ticks Signs and symptoms
TESTING FOR LYME
The tests for Lyme disease are unreliable; one reason for this is that most people do not develop the antibody response that the test measures for 3-4 weeks after being bitten. Not having an accurate test is one of the reasons Lyme can be difficult to diagnose.
If you feel you doctor is not listening to you or is not knowledgeable about tick-borne diseases, find another doctor. Be your own advocate!
Patients treated with appropriate antibiotics promptly after being bitten usually recover rapidly and completely. Left untreated the disease can progress and symptoms can become debilitating and difficult to treat.
Be aware that pets can carry disease-infected ticks into your home. Keep pets off your furniture. Ticks will crawl off of them, onto the furniture and then on to you.
Checking pets for ticks is helpful, but it is even more difficult to find ticks on your pet than on a human. There are many tick prevention products available. Products that kill on contact are the most effective at keeping you and your pet healthy. Learn more
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