While the blossoms of spring and the lush green of summer are beautiful, they signal the return of tick season. The best way to avoid getting Lyme Disease is to become educated on how to prevent getting bitten and what to do if bitten!
What causes Lyme Disease?
The most common cause of Lyme Disease is getting bitten by a black-legged tick that has been infected with bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. In the spring, look for young tick nymphs that resemble a poppy seed. As spring progresses to summer, the ticks grow and are easier to spot.
How does Lyme Disease present?
People often don’t consider the possibility of having Lyme Disease unless they see they’ve been bitten by a tick or develop a bull’s-eye rash; however, it’s extremely important to know you don’t necessarily need the typical rash to have Lyme. In fact, atypical rashes are seen more commonly- or you may never see a rash at all! Lyme disease can also present with flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and malaise. If untreated, there can be damage to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.
What do you do if you find a tick on you?
It’s best to avoid wooded areas, brush, and tall grass where ticks love to hang out. However, If you’re going to be in those areas, wear light-colored clothing and long sleeves, use tick repellent, and perform a thorough tick check of your body. Ticks love to attach to the waistline, armpits, behind the knees, or behind the ears. If you are lucky enough to spot a tick that’s bitten you, use a pair of narrow tweezers to grasp the tick very near the surface of the skin and tug upward with steady pressure (careful not to squeeze the body of the tick). If possible, save the tick and put it into a ziplock bag to send in for testing.
What do you do if you’ve been bitten?
First and foremost call your doctor! There are different approaches to treating Lyme. If you develop a rash, typical conventional treatment is 30 days of antibiotics. Some docs may recommend prophylactic antibiotic therapy regardless of whether or not a rash is present. Some sources claim ticks need to be attached for 36-46 hours before they can transmit the Borrelia bacteria, but other sources state transmission can happen in less time. Blood tests to detect Lyme disease rely on a person’s immune response, and after infection with the bacteria, it takes time for the body to mount a measurable response. If someone is tested before the immune system has produced enough antibodies, the result will be a false negative; therefore, it’s best to let your doctor determine the best course of action based on your clinical presentation.
What else is important to know?
When testing for Lyme Disease, it’s important to test for Babesia, Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, and Bartonella, which are other tick-transmitted organisms. If coinfections are left untreated, their continued presence increases morbidity and prevents successful treatment of Lyme disease.