Need-to-Know: Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Terminix specializes in controlling pests, like ticks. With May being Lyme Disease Awareness Month, we wanted, here is some information regarding ticks and Lyme disease.

tick bites

Approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year, but many more cases go unreported. Two CDC studies suggest that closer to 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease every year. Most Lyme disease cases occur in the Northeast and upper Midwest, with 14 states accounting for more than 96 percent of the cases.

What is Lyme disease and how do you get it?

Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Lyme disease is transmitted to people through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Most people are infected through the bite of tiny, immature ticks called nymphs.

Ticks can attach to any part of the human body, but they prefer hard-to-see places, like the groin, armpits and scalp. In most cases, ticks need to stay attached to their human hosts for at least 36 to 48 hours before the Lyme disease bacterium can be passed along.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

According to the CDC, untreated Lyme disease can produce a variety of symptoms, depending on the stage of the infection. Three to 30 days after being bitten by a tick, you may experience these early symptoms of Lyme disease:

  • Chills
  • Headache
  •  Fatigue
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Erythema migrans (EM) rash: Occurs in approximately 70 to 80 percent of infected persons. Begins at the site of a tick bite after a delay of three to 30 days (average is about seven days). Expands gradually over a period of days. May feel warm to the touch, but is rarely itchy or painful. Sometimes clears as it enlarges, resulting in a target or “bulls-eye” appearance. May appear on any area of the body

Days to months after being bitten by a tick, you may experience these later Lyme disease symptoms: 

  • Severe headaches and neck stiffness
  • Additional EM rashes on other areas of the body
  • Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly the knees and other large joints.
  • Facial palsy (loss of muscle tone or drooping on one or both sides of the face)
  • Intermittent pain in tendons, muscles, joints and bones
  • Heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat (Lyme carditis)
  • Episodes of dizziness or shortness of breath
  • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
  • Nerve pain
  • Shooting pain, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Problems with short-term memory

What is the treatment for Lyme disease?

According to the CDC, antibiotics are the only known effective treatment for Lyme disease.

How can you help prevent tick bites?

Taking measures to help prevent tick bites is important year-round, particularly during the warmer months (April through September), when ticks are most active. To help prevent tick bites:

  • Avoid direct contact with ticks
  • Stay out of wooded and brushy areas with tall grass and leaf litter
  • Walk in the center of trails when hiking
  • Use repellents containing 20–30 percent DEET on exposed skin and clothing to help repel ticks for several hours. Follow the instructions carefully. Parents should apply the repellent to children.
  • Find and remove ticks from your body
  • Bathe or shower soon after you come inside, ideally within two hours, to find and remove ticks.
  • Do a full-body tick check using a mirror. Don’t forget to check your hair.
  • Examine your pets and gear for ticks that may have hitchhiked home in your backpack or coat.
  • If manufacturer's instructions allow, tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks effectively. If the clothes cannot be washed in hot water, tumble dry on low heat for 90 minutes or high heat for 60 minutes. The clothes should be warm and completely dry.

If you experience symptoms that may indicate Lyme disease, get medical treatment right away to help avoid potentially serious health consequences.

 

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