Flu-like symptoms from a tick bite? No, thank you. But with climate changes and longer summers, the likelihood of Lyme disease has ultimately increased. So, how do you get Lyme disease and how can its risk be lowered? We you have covered!
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial illness spread by ticks, specifically from a black-legged, deer tick. Deer ticks are as its name suggests, preferring the white-tailed deer as its host. These ticks are often mistaken for the American dog ticks, but are generally half the size. Deer ticks are commonly red or brown in color but may become a deeper brown-red after feeding.
Initially, a bulls-eye patterned rash is usually present within 48 hours and lasts for about four weeks. The rash may be warm to the touch but should not produce pain or itch. Several weeks after the tick bite, flu-like symptoms arise related to the bacterial spread. Indications during this state include chills, changes in vision, mild headaches, enlarged lymph notes, pain and stiffness in joints or muscles, fatigue and fever. If left untreated, bacteria can spread and affect other body areas, even years after the initial tick bite. Severe symptoms include irregular heart rhythms, short-term memory loss, mental fogginess, brain disorders, difficulty concentrating, and numbness in the extremities.
Diagnosing Lyme disease is most reliable through blood testing, especially in the first few weeks during elevated antibody levels. A physical exam and health history is also obtained along with potential diagnosis tests including an ELISA (enzyme linked immunosorbent assay), a western blot, and a polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Recovery is dictated by timely treatment, mostly with antibiotic use. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can alleviate pain associated with Lyme disease symptoms. Though treatment may be a lengthy process, individuals are very likely to fully recover from Lyme disease.
Are You More at Risk for Lyme Disease?
Climate change has inevitably increased the risk of Lyme disease. During cooler seasons and periods of the year, ticks generally die off. Bu with longer summers and shorter winters, ticks are maturing at a faster rate and living longer. The conclusion? More mature ticks to latch on and infect the human body. Those living in the eastern half of the United States are further at risk, as deer ticks reside more frequently in this region. Campers and hikers also increase their risk of tick exposure. But for those who do not exactly want to stay cooped up inside, there are protective measures to reduce tick bites and ultimately, Lyme disease.
Reduce Your Risk of Lyme Disease
Staying proactive is one of the best ways to reduce Lyme disease risk. If partaking in outdoor activities, wear protective clothing. Tall socks and long pants and shirts are great examples to keep skin covered and less accessible to ticks. Spraying on an insect repellent is another way to reduce ticks. Additionally, partake in regular and thorough tick checks. If a tick is found, remove it as soon as possible. Proper tick removal is described here.
Roth E, Cirino E. Is It Lyme Disease? Check Your Symptoms. Healthline.