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lyme-disease-preventionHow Do You Get Lyme Disease

Warmer months bring outdoor activity.  And with that comes the reminder to pull out the bug repellent and sunscreen!  As much as we love the sun, the flowers blooming and the greenery, the irritating reality is that the bugs and ticks that spread lyme disease are coming too.  And some of them can pose a threat to our health if we are bitten.  The blacklegged tick is one of the insects we should be on the lookout for, because it can spread Lyme disease.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

The blacklegged ticks that spread lyme disease pick up the harmful bacteria when they feed on mice or deer that have Lyme disease. And consequently, if we get bit by an infected tick, we can become infected too.

Early Stages of Lyme Disease: First 30 Days

  • Red, growing rash
  • Headache, fever, fatigue, chills, swollen lymph nodes and muscle and joint aches.
  • In some instances a tiny bump or bit of redness appears at the bite (like a mosquito bite) and goes away in 1-2 days, Don't panic and think this is Lyme disease. But you still may have acquired a different kind of infection and it is a good idea to have it checked out by a doctor.
  • "Bull's-eye" rash.  This rash is usually apparent on most infected people and begins at the tick bite within 7 to 30 days.  The rash will get larger as the days go by, is warm to the touch and can grow to be as large as 12 inches across.  The reason it is called a "bulls-eye" rash is that at times part of the rash will clear, resembling a bulls eye.

Days or Weeks Following Tick Bite

Left untreated, the Lyme disease infection can affect other parts of the body, producing various specific symptoms that appear and disappear, including:

  • More "bulls-eye" rashes covering other body areas.
  • Facial muscle weakness on either or both sides. This is called Bell's Palsy.
  • Inflamed spinal cord (meningitis), a neck that is stiff and severe headaches
  • Large joint pain, commonly the knees
  • Stabbing pains that may cause sleep disturbances
  • Heart irregularities or palpitations, dizziness

Months-to-Years Following Tick Bite with Lyme Disease

Most people who are untreated for Lyme disease have instances of severe arthritis.  A small amount of people have short-term-memory problems.

How to Prevent Tick Bites

Avoid Direct Contact with Ticks

  • Keep clear of heavily wooded, dense areas with tall grass and leaves.
  • Keep to the center of trails when hiking.

Keep Ticks Away Using DEET and Clothing Repellents

  • Cover all exposed skin with repellents that contain DEET.  The protection lasts as long as several hours. Make sure to read and follow instructions on proper application. Parents can apply the repellent to children but keep it off the hands, away from the eyes and mouth.
  • Permethrin can be applied to clothing, shoes and tents and keeps those items protected through repeated washings.  You can also purchase clothing that already contains permethrin and holds protection way longer (70 washes).
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has other repellent suggestions: http://cfpub.epa.gov/oppref/insect/.
  • Do a full-scale body check frequently.  Ticks love hiding in hair but also can be found around the ears, under arms, in belly buttons, on or between legs and around the waistline.
  • As soon as you come indoors shower or bathe as soon as possible.  This will make it easier to get rid of ticks that have not yet attached.
  • Don't forget to check your pets and even your gear. Nothing is exempt from ticks and they can be carried into your home and later bite.  It helps to dry your clothing on high heat for an hour.  This will kill ticks that are undetected.
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