This month is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Lyme disease is an infection that comes from the bite of an infected tick. Its symptoms can range from a rash to arthritis if left untreated. To prepare you and your family for time outside this summer, take a few moments to learn about the basics for preventing and recognizing Lyme disease.
Ticks are most active during the summertime, which is when you are more prone to spending time outside. Preventing Lyme disease means preventing tick bites. Here are some ways to avoid ticks:
- Avoid thick greenery and wooded areas, as these are the areas where ticks live. When spending time in nature, make sure to stay away from brush and tall grass, if possible.
- Wear insect repellent.
- Wear protective clothing — long sleeves and pants in thick greenery or wooded areas. Consider wearing light colored clothes to help you spot any ticks that land on you while you are outside.
- Check for ticks when you return home! Do this outside in case any ticks are hiding in your clothes so they don’t hide in your home next. If you encounter any ticks, carefully remove them.
- Take a hot shower and wash your clothes in hot water after spending time outside. Ticks can hide in hard to see areas. Check armpits, scalp, and groin when showering.
Lyme disease symptoms can start between 3 to 30 days after a tick bite. Early symptoms include rash, fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes. If the infection is left untreated, it can spread to other parts of your body, including joints, heart, and nervous system.
Later symptoms of Lyme disease include severe headaches, neck stiffness, additional rashes, facial palsy (drooping on the face), arthritis, swollen joints, heart palpitations, muscle pain, irregular heartbeat, dizziness, shortness of breath, nerve pain, and shooting pain, numbness, or tingling in hands or feet.
Because Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, it is treated with antibiotics. The earlier the infection is identified and treatment begins, the better. Earlier diagnosis and treatment increase your chances of a full and speedy recovery.
Some patients who are treated for Lyme disease may have what is called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, or PTLDS. PTLDS is characterized by lingering pain, fatigue, or difficulty thinking that lasts more than 6 months after treatment. While PTLDS itself does not have treatment options, you can still treat the symptoms. Most patients who have PTLDS do improve with time!
This summer, be on the lookout for ticks. Share the risk of Lyme disease with your friends and family and check yourselves often if you’re working or playing outdoors.