Identifying the Dangers and Signs of Lyme Disease
When thinking of tick-borne diseases, often the first one that comes to mind is Lyme disease. According to 2015 data from the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), 95% of all Lyme disease cases were reported from only 14 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
However, due to climate change and rising temperatures, the geographic distribution and increased seasonal activity of ticks that transmit the disease are also growing. This summer alone (May through August), it is estimated that 5,000 people a week will contract Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. One in five of these victims will suffer life-long debilitating symptoms .
So, what do you do if you are bitten by a tick in an area where Lyme disease is prevalent? Are you at risk of contracting the disease? How do you spot the symptoms, and more importantly, what should you do for treatment?
Preventing Exposure to Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Ticks are exposed to the bacteria after biting an infected animal, usually a deer or a mouse. Then, when the tick bites a human, the bacteria is transmitted into the bloodstream.
The risk for contracting the disease increases the longer the tick is attached to the body, and the greater the chance one of those ticks may be infected with Lyme disease or a number of other tick-borne illnesses.
The very best way to minimize your potential exposure to Lyme disease is to protect yourself and your family from being bitten by a tick. This includes wearing a proven tick repellent like Ranger Ready with Picaridin 20%, and Be Tick AWARE of the tick threat around you. For more preventative measures against ticks, read our Tick Protection Travel Guide.
Lyme Disease Symptoms and Signs of Infection
The most distinguishing signs and symptoms of Lyme disease in humans occur at the site of infection where the tick bite occurs. The most distinguishing sign is commonly referred to as the “Bullseye Rash.” This circular rash is called erythema migrans, and is the first sign of infection usually appearing within 3-30 days of exposure.
Erythema migrains occurs in 70-80% of infected cases. It can feel warm but is rarely painful. Localized at the site of the tick bite, the rash can spread to other parts of the body. Fever and other flu like symptoms typically surface after the appearance of the erythema migrans, including chills, headaches, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, joint pain, and muscle aches.
Without treatment, the symptoms of Lyme disease become more debilitating and potentially chronic, affecting the joints, heart, and nervous system. Pain and weakness in the arms and legs, rapid heartbeat, Bell’s palsy (facial paralysis), headaches, poor memory and other cognitive difficulties may manifest after several weeks or months after the initial bite. Peripheral neuropathy, recurring arthritis, inflammation of the heart muscle and irregular heartbeat can all have lasting effects on quality of life.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Visual diagnosis siting the Bullseye Rash and list of symptoms in the early stages is the fastest path to treatment. Blood tests can be performed three to four weeks after being bitten to confirm the diagnosis, or in the absence of any visible rash. Treatment in the early stages is also more effective and the disease is more easily cured with antibiotics. Lyme disease in its later stages may require multiple courses of treatment, including intravenous antibiotics and even possible hospitalization.
When it comes to protecting yourself and your family from Lyme disease, it’s important to know when you might be at risk of a tick bite and to wear a trusted and proven tick repellent. Early detection and awareness of the symptoms are crucial in contributing to a full recovery. The longer symptoms go untreated, the higher the potential for lingering or recurring complications.