The arrival of summer means sun, fun, and a lot more time outside. But if you’re not careful, you might get something else from the outdoors besides a great tan. Lyme disease, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected black-legged ticks.” To keep yourself safe, you need to know what to look for.
Common symptoms of Lyme disease include
- Body aches
- Facial paralysis
The characteristic skin rash is called erythema migrans and occurs in about 75% of infected persons after an average of 7 days. It is famous for sometimes looking like a bull’s-eye, a red ring around a red circle. But just because you don’t have the rash doesn’t mean you aren’t infected. If left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to
- Heart palpitations
- Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
- Nerve pain
If you observe any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention.
Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium, so people treated with appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of Lyme disease usually recover rapidly and completely. Tests for Lyme disease check for antibodies, which can take several weeks to develop. Recently infected patients are expected to test negative. If you experience pain, fatigue, or difficulty thinking for more than 6 months after treatment, you may have Post Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS). There is no proven treatment for PTLDS, but patients usually get better after a while.
Ticks are most active during warmer months (April-September), so you need to be on the lookout. You are especially at risk if you live in the northeastern and north-central U.S., where the infected black-legged ticks are most common. The ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or even on animals. Ticks need to be attached to you for at least 24 hours before they can transmit Lyme disease, so it is very important to check for ticks after being outside. Make sure you check yourself and children
- Under the arms
- In and around the ears
- Inside belly button
- Back of the knees
- In and around the hair
- Between the legs
- Around the waist
Another good way to prevent infection is to treat your clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin, which can remain protective through several washings, or buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear. You should also use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. Other preventive measures include
- Avoiding wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Walking in the center of trails.
- Checking clothing, gear, and pets for ticks.
- Showering soon after being outdoors.
If you do find an attached tick, follow the CDC’s guidelines for how to safely remove it.