Springtime is one of the best seasons on the calendar year. It is the time of year when you know winter is just about over and summer is coming. The outdoors wake up from its slumber and begins to come to life. If you live in the suburbs, you can really see the transition with the trees starting to bud and flowers starting to bloom. Even the creatures take part in the spring with the birth of their offspring. Unfortunately, it is also the season of deer borne ticks. Those pesky little pests that infect humans with lyme disease (#lymedisease).
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacteria is transferred to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. These ticks are also known as deer ticks since they like to hitch rides on white-tailed deer which are prevalent throughout much of the United States. Deer like to live in forests with nice brush to hide and feed. So if your back yard opens up to a forest and deer are seen roaming around, then chances are you have deer ticks in the area. Deer ticks can be seen at knee-high level on the tips of branches of low growing shrubs. Once the deer tick lands on your pet or any part of your body, it will bite into your skin to feed on blood. It will feed off your blood until it is full and then drop off to reproduce depending if it’s in the nymph or adult stage.
Now, not all deer ticks will transmit lyme disease. There will be cases where you will see a small bump or redness at the site of a tick bite that resembles a mosquito bite. You might also see a small rash or get a fever. These symptoms will go away after 1-2 days then there is a great chance that you were not infected with lyme disease. If you do become infected thanks to deer ticks, there will be some early signs of the infection starting with fever, chills, headaches, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes. Then there is the rash that develops and turns into the lyme disease bullseye which may feel warm but isn’t painful nor itchy. This bullseye can develop anywhere in the body but the center is always where the tick bite occurred.
Once you see this target on your body, you might start to wonder is lyme disease curable? The answer is yes but lyme disease treatment needs to occur fairly quickly. If left untreated, there are additional symptoms that can occur such as severe headaches, neck stiffness, arthritis, joint pain and facial or Bell’s palsy which is the loss of muscle tone or droop on one or both sides of the face. You can also add irregular heartbeat, dizziness, shortness of breath, nerve pain, short-term memory loss, shooting pains or numbness in the hands or feet and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. So if you suspect a tick bite, go get the lyme disease test to confirm and get treatment. Keep in mind that the lyme disease test is not fully accurate but its a starting point.
Lyme disease is a tricky disease to diagnose since it mimics other infectious diseases in terms of symptoms. It is not uncommon for doctors to misdiagnose patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, antibiotics, multiple sclerosis, and even depression. This leads to a delay in treatment. If treatment is performed early enough, antibiotics will actually do the trick. Antibiotics for lyme disease can be broad spectrum antibiotics or a combination of several types for treatment. There will be cases where the symptoms will last for several months even while being treated with antibiotics. This is mostly due to the resistance of the disease. Keep in mind that there is no lyme disease vaccine available nor any lyme disease cure, but there are steps you can do to protect your pets, children and yourselves.
There are several steps you can do to prevent an infection if you like to hike the outdoors. First, avoid wooded and brushy areas and walk in the center of trails. Use repellents that contain 20% to 30% DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) on exposed skin and clothing for protection that lasts up to several hours. Use products that contain permethrin on clothing such as boots, pants, socks and tents. Then bathe or shower within 2 hours after coming indoors to easily find ticks that are crawling on you. Perform a full body tick check on everyone that might have been in a tick infested area including your pets. Don’t forget to examine your gear such as tents, packs and coats since ticks can catch a ride and infect you later. An easy trick for clothing is to tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes. If they are damp, go a little longer and if you want to do laundry, use the hot water cycle. The high heat will kill ticks. If you see a tick, remove it right away and save it so it can be tested by your doctor. Being aware of your surroundings can save you alot of pain later.
Have you contracted lyme disease?