Protecting Yourself from Lyme Disease
With the warm weather right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about Lyme Disease. We don’t want to scared you, but based on last year’s numbers and the continued changes in climate, the risks of Lyme Disease are on the rise.
Lyme Disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to us and our pets through bites from infected blacklegged ticks. When you’re bitten by an infected tick, your symptoms may appear benign at first, but if left untreated, will become very severe. Like any infection in your body, your immune system does work to help keep you healthy, but it’s important to remember that with tick bites and Lyme Disease symptoms, you do need to seek medical attention.
In this article, we highlight the key facts you need to be aware of to protect yourself, your family, and your pets from tick bites and the potential of developing Lyme Disease. Remember, if you are bitten by a tick, seek medical attention immediately – your healthcare provider will analyze the tick for signs of infection and proceed accordingly. Don’t let symptoms linger – if in doubt, seek medical care.
How to Prevent Tick Bites
Typically, ticks live in wooded areas like parks, natural green spaces, hiking trails, and other areas where there is high grass, bushy areas, and leaf debris. The prime time for tick bites is from April to September, when ticks are most prevalent.
The number one thing you can do to prevent tick bites is to avoid direct contact with ticks. When you’re in the woods, park, tall grassy areas, bushy areas, or areas with lots of leaf debris, it helps to walk in the center of the trail. By walking in the center of the trail, you’re less likely to brush up against the grass, brush, and leaves on which the ticks are living. Remember, ticks are extremely small and unlike other insects – ticks are very hard to see in nature.
Of course, the solution to protecting yourself from tick bites is not to avoid fresh air and nature – instead consider doing the following:
- Use a repellent that contains 20% or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on any exposed skin. Follow the instructions on the insect repellent bottle, making sure to avoid contact with your hands, eyes, and mouth. Choose a repellent that lasts for several hours.
- Wear clothing that is treated with permethrin – spray your boots, hats, socks, pants, tent, jackets, long-sleeved shirts, and other outdoor gear with a product that contains .5% permethrin. You can buy pre-treated clothing at outdoor shops.
- When out walking, mountain biking, trail running, or hiking in the woods consider wearing long sleeves to protect your bare arms, a hat, and tall socks. The less exposed skin, the better. It is possible to buy very lightweight clothing that does double-duty with cooling materials, sun protection, and that helps protect you from exposure to tick bites.
Within two hours of being outdoors, shower and inspect your body for any ticks. Remember, you likely won’t feel any ticks on your body – look under your armpits, behind your knees, in your scalp, inside and behind your ears, and inside your belly button. Carefully check your children and other family members – it does help to have someone else provide a second check for ticks.
Take a close look at your outdoor gear, including tents, hats, shoes, and clothing for any ticks. It is also important to give your dog a thorough check over – this is a great time to give your dog a bath and a nice brush. Tumble dry your clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes – this heat will kill any ticks on your clothing. If you need to wash your clothes first, do so in hot water. If your clothes cannot be washed in hot water, wash them as normal, and then tumble dry on low heat for 90 minutes or high heat for 60 minutes.
How to Identify the Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease
At the sign of a tick bite, we urge you to seek medical attention. The earlier you get a diagnosis of Lyme Disease (or learn that you’re free from Lyme Disease) – the better. Be aware of these critical signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease:
- Early signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease occur within three to 30 days after a tick bite. Fevers, chills, headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, joint pain or aches, and swollen lymph nodes are signs you’ve been bitten by an infected tick.
- Pay attention for the development of a rash at the site of the tick bite. Typically, this rash occurs within seven days of the bite and may feel warm to the touch or even be painful. This Lyme Disease-related rash can look like a bull’s eye and can reach a diameter of 12 inches or more.
- If undiagnosed, further signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease can occur. Be aware of headaches, a stiff neck, rashes, signs of arthritis with joint pain and swelling (often in the knees and large joints), facial palsy, and intermittent pain in your muscles, joints, bones, and tendons. Don’t ignore symptoms of dizziness, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, shooting pain or numbness in your hands or feet, and problems with short-term memory.
Seek medical attention immediately should you recognize these signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease in yourself or in family members. Don’t take the wait-and-see approach. It’s better to see your doctor and be told you’re fine than to delay a doctor’s visit and then learn you have Lyme Disease.
How to Treat Lyme Disease
The good news is that most people who are treated in the early stages of Lyme Disease can make a full recovery. The most common treatment approach includes the administration of oral antibiotics. Some patients with other health concerns may require intravenous antibiotic treatment.
Ask your healthcare provider as many questions as you can think of regarding the treatment of your Lyme Disease. No question is too big or too small – you want to make sure you’re getting the treatment you need.
As you know, infection and inflammation can be very hard on your body, we remind you to keep taking your AHCC to give your immune system the extra support it needs. In fact, download our free Patient’s Guide to AHCC to learn how AHCC can help keep you well and feeling your best.