It's Tick Season: Protect Yourself From Lyme Disease
When you're heading outdoors this summer, keep an eye out for ticks during and after your outing, health experts say.
These common parasites can transmit Lyme disease, a potentially serious illness.
Lyme disease is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected black-legged tick, also called a deer tick, explained Dr. Crystal Tank and Dr. Ashany Sundaram of Mountainside Medical Group in Montclair, N.J.
"The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to cover up your exposed skin in wooded areas," Tank said in a medical group news release.
"Use a bug repellent that carries at least 20% of DEET chemical," she advised. If you find a tick on your body, remove it with tweezers so that the whole tick leaves the skin.
"Make sure to speak with a doctor if you have tick bites, and always check your entire body for ticks after potential exposure," Tank added.
Time is crucial when dealing with a tick bite. Speak with a doctor immediately if you start experiencing symptoms like joint stiffness or fever after a tick bite, the doctors advised.
Untreated Lyme disease can progress to cause the following symptoms:
- Severe headache or neck stiffness
- Rashes on other areas of the body
- Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly in the knees
- Loss of muscle tone or "drooping" on one or both sides of the face
- Heart palpitation or an irregular heartbeat
- Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
- Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet
Sundaram explained that "antibiotics are used to treat Lyme infection. Patients typically take doxycycline for 10 days to three weeks, or amoxicillin and cefuroxime for two to three weeks. There is also a one-dose preventive treatment which is most effective if started within 72-hours of a known tick bite."
She added that "about 90% of people are cured of Lyme disease with treatment. In some cases, a patient may need extended IV antibiotic therapy."
But 10% of people do not respond to treatment and develop chronic Lyme disease. "There is currently no cure for chronic Lyme disease. People with this condition typically get better over several months with a doctor-curated treatment plan to help manage the symptoms," Sundaram said.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on Lyme disease.
SOURCE: Mountainside Medical Group, news release, July 20, 2021
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