Lyme disease is an illness that is transmitted to humans, cats and dogs via tick bites. When caught early and treated, most people recover quickly, but when it reaches the late stage, this disease can lead to long-term health issues. May is Lyme disease awareness month, and we’re here to tell you everything you should know about this tick-borne disease.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-borne diseases in the United States. It is transmitted when an infected black-legged tick (also known as a deer tick) feeds on the blood of a human or animal. These ticks thrive in wooded and grassy areas.
One of the first signs of Lyme disease is a rash. This rash is called erythema migrans and can appear anywhere from three to 30 days after an infected tick bite. It begins at the bite site and can expand up to 12 inches. It may clear a little in the center. This rash is typically not itchy or painful. During the early stage, the rash can be accompanied by a fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes and body aches.
The late-stage symptoms of Lyme disease are much more severe. These can appear weeks to months after the tick bite and include rashes on other parts of the body, severe joint pain, facial palsy, numbness in hands and feet and other neurological issues.
You should see a medical professional if you start to experience symptoms of Lyme disease following a tick bite. Your doctor will need to run a blood test to determine if you have the disease. If you are diagnosed with Lyme, you will be placed on antibiotics as treatment. Most people make a full recovery when Lyme is caught early and treated. For late-stage Lyme disease, you might have to be on antibiotics for longer or have medicine administered through an IV. If left untreated, Lyme can lead to chronic joint inflammation (known as Lyme arthritis), impaired memory, neurological issues and heart complications (known as Lyme carditis).
How to Prevent Tick-Borne Diseases
There’s currently not a vaccine for Lyme disease, which means to prevent it, you need to avoid getting bit by a tick in the first place. Ticks love areas that are wooded and full of grass, so if you’re spending time hiking or camping, be sure to cover up. Leave as little skin exposed as possible by wearing long sleeves, tucking pants into your socks and even wearing gloves. You can also use insect repellent.
After spending time outdoors, thoroughly check yourself, children and pets for ticks. If you do discover a tick, remove it as soon as possible. The best way is to gently grab the tick with tweezers and pull it out, making sure the head comes out along with it.
Many tick bites happen at home, so you need to take precautions to tick-proof the outside of your house. Get rid of tall grasses, create barriers between your yard and wooded areas, regularly mow your lawn and keep woodpiles in dry areas. If there’s a persistent tick problem in your yard, bring in experts to conduct a residential pest control service like the one offered by MosquitoNix®.
Helping Spread Awareness
During the month of May, there are endless opportunities for you to spread awareness about Lyme disease. You can create a fundraiser, donate to a nonprofit, write an opinion piece for your local newspaper and share resources on social media.
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