Updates from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Hospital Foundation
Now that we are in the midst of spring and the days are warming up, many of us are engaging in outdoor activities such as yard work, gardening, hiking, and camping. For those spending time in wooded or grassy areas, it is important to be cautious of black-legged or deer ticks. These ticks can become infected after feeding on infected deer, birds or mice. Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria created from this can cause an infectious disease called Lyme disease.
First identified in the town of Old Lyme, Connecticut in 1975, Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in the U.S. One of the challenges of Lyme disease is many people have no memory of a tick bite. Time for discovering a tick bite is on your side as a tick has to be attached to the skin for at least 36 hours to transmit the infection.
Symptoms can vary with the most common being a flat, circular rash at the tick site that looks like a bull’s eye and often expands over time. Generally this rash is not itchy or painful, but may feel warm. Fatigue, joint pain, swelling, muscle aches, headaches, fever, and swollen lymph nodes may also be signs.
If untreated other symptoms may appear such as a rash that expands to other parts of the body and is known as erythema migrans. Bouts of severe joint pain and swelling often around the knees and aggravated neurological issues may also appear.
Not all tick bites lead to Lyme disease. You should see your doctor even if symptoms disappear because it does not mean the disease is gone. Lyme disease is generally treated with oral antibiotics. The earlier you are treated, the better as it gives you the best chance of a full and quick recovery.
Even after treatment, some people experience pain, fatigue, or difficulty thinking that may last more than six months, which is called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS). Researchers don’t know why some people have PTLDS and there is no proven treatment for it. Long-term antibiotics have not been shown to help. Most people do get better over time although it can be a long recovery.
The best way to avoid Lyme disease, especially if you are in a high risk location, is to keep covered up and use insect repellent. Clearing brush, mowing the yard, and stacking wood in a dry, sunny location discourages rodents that carry ticks. Be vigilant about checking your skin, clothing, pets, and children for ticks.
Deer ticks are often not bigger than the head of a pin so you may not see them if you don’t check carefully. Showering is also recommended because ticks don’t immediately attach so bathing may wash them away. If you do discover a tick, remove it with tweezers as soon as possible by grasping it near the head or mouth. It is important not to squeeze too tightly so it all comes out.
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