Taking Care with Lyme Disease 

Lyme disease is a tick-borne bacterial infection that most often targets the skin, joints, brain, and heart, although any part of the body can be affected.

Lyme disease is an infection caused by bacteria transmitted through tick bites. The disease is most common in nine states: Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin, according to the Lyme Disease Foundation (LDF).

Often, the first symptom is a flat, round, reddish rash at the sight of the bite that appears three to 30 days after the tick bite.

These are other possible symptoms at this stage:

  • Fever

  • Muscle and joint aches

  • Fatigue

  • Headache

  • Severe stiff neck

Over several days to weeks after the tick bite, Lyme disease can cause neurological problems, including meningitis, an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord; and Bell’s palsy, a weakness in facial muscles, the LDF says. Lyme disease also can cause arthritis.

Diagnosis and treatment

Call your doctor if you develop a rash or flulike illness after you’ve been bitten by a tick or could have been exposed to ticks.

Antibiotics usually cure the disease within two to six weeks. Antibiotics aren’t prescribed for every tick bite, however, because the actual risk of acquiring Lyme disease is low. In addition, people often recover without antibiotics.

If you find a tick

Using a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick body close to your skin. Pull in a steady upward motion until the tick comes out. Be careful not to squeeze or twist the tick body. Then apply an antiseptic to the bite area and wash your hands.

If you can’t remove all of the tick, see your doctor.

Prevention

Follow these suggestions if you’re in a region where Lyme disease is common:

  • Stay out of wooded, bushy areas that have high grass and leaf litter in May, June, and July.

  • Wear long pants and long sleeves. Tuck your pant legs into your socks and your shirt into your pants.

  • Examine your skin for ticks after returning from wooded areas or areas with high grass or brush.

  • Apply tick repellent containing DEET to your clothing. Concentrations of 10 to 30 percent DEET are safe for children older than 2 months.

  • Perform a daily tick check on yourself, your children, and your pets after being outdoors.

Taking these precautions and reporting any symptoms can help protect you and your family.


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