What Do I Do If I Find A Tick On My Skin
Dont panic. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skins surface as possible. Pull up with steady, even pressure. Be careful not to squeeze or twist the tick body. Sometimes parts of the tick remain in the skin. You can leave them alone or carefully remove them the same way you would a splinter. Do not use heat , petroleum jelly, or other methods to try to make the tick back out on its own. These methods are not effective.
Wash the area where the tick was attached thoroughly with soap and water. Keep an eye on the area for a few weeks and note any changes. Call your doctor if you develop a rash around the area where the tick was attached. Be sure to tell your doctor that you were bitten by a tick and when it happened.
How Do I Know If I Have Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is an illness caused by a tick bite–specifically, the bite of the black legged tick or deer tick. Some of these ticks carry a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. The tick transfers the bacteria to a persons bloodstream through the bite. The tick must be attached for at least 24 hours before this can happen.
Over time, untreated Lyme disease can cause serious problems with the heart, joints, nervous system, and memory. Youre most likely to get infected during spring and summer. So before you rush outside to enjoy the warmth of the sun, take some time to review Lyme disease symptoms and when you should see your health care provider.
Lyme Disease: What to Look For
If you become ill within a few weeks of a known tick bite, see your health care provider right away. And even when you arent sure if youve been bitten by a tick–but have the symptoms of Lyme disease and have been in the great outdoors–you should check in with your provider. Immature deer ticks cause most infections they are very tiny and many people are bitten without being aware of it.
Shortly after infection, Lyme disease can cause:
- Muscle and joint pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
- A bulls-eye-shaped rash at the site of the bite, which can appear within a few days or up to a month after the bite
How Is Lyme Disease Diagnosed?
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Can Your Body Fight Off Lyme Disease
If left untreated for months or longer, some proportion of those infected end up with significant cognitive, neurological, and cardiac problems. Not everyone gets this sick in fact, it’s possible in some cases forthough not safe to rely onthe body’s immune system to fight off Lyme disease on its own.
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What Causes Lyme Disease
Black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are the prime culprits of carrying Lyme disease, and the infection is most common in the northeastern and north central U.S.
The bacterium that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, is so widespread in parts of the country that healthcare providers will now test for it and the other, lesser-known tick-borne diseases, some of which have similar symptoms in patients complaining of fatigue with no other obvious causes.
How Long Does Lyme Disease Last
They may last up to six months or longer. These symptoms can interfere with a person’s normal activities and may cause emotional distress as a result. However, most people’s symptoms improve after six months to a year. It’s not known why some people develop post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome and others don’t.
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What Is Lyme Disease
This bacterial infection is spread through the bite of a young deer tick or black-legged tick. These eight-legged creatures, about the size of a poppy seed, can be found in wooded and grassy areas throughout the United States, especially in New England and the Rocky Mountains.
Because these ticks are so small, most people donât realize when theyâre bitten. But the longer a tick stays attached to you, the more likely it is to transmit Borrelia burgdorferi , if the tick is a carrier.
If not found and treated, Lyme disease can lead to problems with your joints, heart, and nervous system. It can even affect your memory.
Who Is At Risk For Lyme Disease
Anyone can get a tick bite. But people who spend lots of time outdoors in wooded, grassy areas are at a higher risk. This includes campers, hikers, and people who work in gardens and parks.
Most tick bites happen in the summer months when ticks are most active and people spend more time outdoors. But you can get bitten in the warmer months of early fall, or even late winter if temperatures are unusually high. And if there is a mild winter, ticks may come out earlier than usual.
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What Increases Your Risk
The main risk factor for Lyme disease is exposure to ticks that are infected with Lyme disease bacteria. In areas where Lyme disease is widespread, such as the eastern and south-central areas of Canada, southern British Columbia, and northeastern United States, several factors may increase your risk, including:
- Spending time outdoors during the warm months of the year when ticks are most active. This is usually between May and November, with peak activity in June and July.
- Having indoor/outdoor pets. They can bring infected ticks into the house. Although dogs and cats can become infected with the Lyme disease bacteria, they cannot pass the illness to humans. But the infected ticks can drop off the animal and then bite and infect a person.
- Having a stone fence or a bird feeder near your house. Stone fences often become homes for mice, and mice may feed on spilled seed from a bird feeder. Where there are mice, there are ticks.
Remove ticks right away, as soon as you notice them. Your risk for getting Lyme disease increases the longer a tick is attached to your body. Ticks generally cannot transmit Lyme disease until they are attached for at least 36 hours.
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What Are The Worst Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
Its important to acknowledge flu-like symptoms if you live in an area where ticks are present or you have recently been in a wooded region, because when Lyme disease is left untreated, it can lead to severe health consequences. Very often, the worst symptoms of Lyme disease are ones that you may not have even known could happen after a tick bite.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most severe symptoms of Lyme disease include:
- Severe headaches
- Facial paralysis, a condition known as Bells palsy
- Muscle, joint, tendon, and bone aches
- Heart disorders, a condition known as Lyme carditis
- Additional skin rashes other than the one that presents at the onset of infection
While not all flu-like symptoms you feel will be caused by Lyme disease, it is important to pay attention to both your body and your recent surroundings if you have been in an area frequented by ticks. One trick to telling the difference between Lyme disease and a typical flu is the consistency of the symptoms. Lyme flu-like symptoms tend to come and go, whereas typical flu symptoms will be persistent until your body has recovered, after which they will subside.
Lyme disease can cause permanent damage. Knowing you have Lyme as early as possible is key to overcoming the symptoms and avoiding any possible long-term effects.
Featured image by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels
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The Bacteria That Causes Lyme In Humans Doesnt Hurt Ticks In Fact It Might Help Them Survive
University of Rhode Island entomologist Jannelle Couret is tipping the way we understand the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
Instead of looking at it from the human perspective, she and an interdisciplinary team of researchers are taking the view of the tick.
While the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi is the pathogen that causes Lyme disease in humans, its presence is quite different in blacklegged ticks that pick up the bacteria from feeding on white-footed mice.
For the ticks, the bacteria doesnt cause disease. It might even be beneficial.
For the next four years, Courets team will research the ecological factors driving the evolution of Borrelia burgdorferi in blacklegged ticks thanks to a $2.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.
The grant is part of the prestigious Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease program, run by the NIH, National Science Foundation, and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
I am really interested in the factors that are driving the tick populations, said Couret, an assistant professor of biological studies and the principal investigator on the grant.
Their populations vary year to year. Our preliminary data suggests that the survival of the ticks during some of their early life stages is improved based on whether they host these bacteria.
How Is Lyme Disease Diagnosed
To make a diagnosis, your health care provider will consider:
- How likely it is that you were exposed to infected blacklegged ticks
- The possibility that other illnesses may cause similar symptoms
- Results of any lab tests
Most Lyme disease tests check for antibodies made by the body in response to infection. These antibodies can take several weeks to develop. If you are tested right away, it may not show that you have Lyme disease, even if you have it. So you may need to have another test later.
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Do Ticks Benefit From Carrying Infections
But the bacteria doesnt lead to Lyme disease in either the mice or the ticks. In pilot studies, Couret has seen changes in the ticks that acquire the bacteria including behavior, metabolism, respiration, and survival. So there appears to be an advantage for those ticks, she said.
Thats a shift in mindset, said Couret, who joined URI in 2015 after earning her Ph.D. in the ecology of infectious diseases at Emory University.
We mainly think of Borrelia burgdorferi as a pathogen because it causes Lyme disease in humans. We are studying the transmission cycle of the bacteria in nature between ticks and white-footed mice. Its possible that its not acting as a pathogen, but rather as a beneficial symbiont of the tick, a partner. The bigger picture question is, if we view Borrelia burgdorferi with this lens, can we better understand its transmission dynamics?
Lyme Disease Frequently Asked Questions
If you have not done so already, remove the tick with fine-tipped tweezers.
The chances that you might get Lyme disease from a single tick bite depend on the type of tick, where you acquired it, and how long it was attached to you. Many types of ticks bite people in the U.S., but only blacklegged ticks transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Furthermore, only blacklegged ticks in thehighly endemic areas of the northeastern and north central U.S. are commonly infected. Finally, blacklegged ticks need to be attached for at least 24 hours before they can transmit Lyme disease. This is why its so important to remove them promptly and to check your body daily for ticks if you live in an endemic area.
If you develop illness within a few weeks of a tick bite, see your health care provider right away. Common symptoms of Lyme disease include a rash, fever, body aches, facial paralysis, and arthritis. Ticks can also transmit other diseases, so its important to be alert for any illness that follows a tick bite.
Moody KD, Barthold SW, 1991. Relative infectivity of Borrelia burgdorferi in Lewis rats by various routes of inoculation.Am J Trop Med Hyg 44: 135-9.
There are no reports of Lyme disease being spread to infants through breast milk. If you are diagnosed with Lyme disease and are also breastfeeding, make sure that your doctor knows this so that he or she can prescribe an antibiotic thats safe for use when breastfeeding.
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What’s The Best Way To Prevent A Tick Bite
Ticks can’t fly or jump. But they live in shrubs and bushes and can grab onto you when you pass by. To avoid getting bitten:
- Wear pants and socks in areas with lots of trees and when you touch fallen leaves.
- Wear a tick repellent on your skin and clothing that has DEET, lemon oil, or eucalyptus.
- For even more protection, use the chemical permethrin on clothing and camping gear.
- Shower within 2 hours after coming inside. Look for ticks on your skin, and wash ticks out of your hair.
- Put your clothing and any exposed gear into a hot dryer to kill whatever pests might be on them.
How do you know if you’ve been bitten?
Since ticks are so small, you’ve got to have pretty good eyes to see them.
If you have a small, red bump on your skin that looks like a mosquito bite, it could be a tick bite. If it goes away in a few days, itâs not a problem. Remember, a tick bite doesnât necessarily mean you have Lyme disease.
If you notice a rash in the shape of a bull’s-eye, you might have a tick bite. Talk to your doctor about treatment.
If you have an allergic reaction to ticks, you’ll notice a bite right away.
Chronic Lyme: What Happens When Lyme Goes Untreated
The Lyme community typically uses the term chronic Lyme disease to describe a range of physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms that crop up after getting Lyme disease and persist for months to years after infection.
The risk of chronic Lyme increases the longer a Lyme infection goes untreated or undertreated. In other words, patients are more likely to recover fully if their Lyme infection is detected and treated as early as possible after the discovery of a tick bite. This stage is usually marked by symptoms such as fevers, chills, muscle aches, and sometimes rashes.
When left untreated or undertreated, however, Lyme disease can spread throughout the body and affect:
- The central nervous system
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Getting Diagnosed Isn’t Always Straightforward
Lyme disease, a tick-borne bacterial infection, is pretty uncommon in London , so I was sure there was some kind of mistake.
The Independent reports that there are around 1,000 diagnosed cases in the UK every year, most commonly in rural areas, compared to the 300,000 annual reported cases in the US. If it’s not diagnosed early, it can lead to neurological problems like Bell’s palsy , as well as memory and heart problems, according to Mayo Clinic.
It turns out the rash on my inner left thigh was actually where I’d been bitten while sitting on the grass in St James’s Park in central London that June, a month before my hospital visit.
A rash with a red ring around the site of a tick bite, known as erythema migrans , which appears three to 30 days after being bitten, is one of the main telltale signs of Lyme disease.
What To Expect At The Vets Office
If your pet has been diagnosed with uncomplicated Lyme disease, this is what you can expect to happen at your veterinarians office.
- Depending on the type of test used to screen for Lyme disease, a confirmatory test may be necessary.
- Urine protein screening — In general, only dogs who have symptoms of Lyme disease or protein in their urine should be treated with antibiotics.
- Dogs with protein in their urine should have regularly scheduled rechecks to monitor their condition.
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How To Avoid Contracting Lyme Disease
- Use insect repellant on your clothing and all exposed skin when walking in wooded or grassy areas where ticks thrive.
- Treat clothing and footwear with permethrin , an insect repellant that remains active through several washings.
- Walk in the center of trails to avoid high grass when hiking.
- After walking or hiking, change your clothes and perform a thorough check for ticks, focusing on the groin, scalp, and armpits.
- Check your pets for ticks.
Contact a doctor if a tick bites you. You should be observed for 30 days for signs of Lyme disease.
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Early Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
Symptoms of Lyme disease in humans can be vague, and chances are you have no idea an infected tick has bitten you until symptoms surface.
Ticks secrete an anesthetic that makes their bites painless, explains Christine Green, MD, a family physician in Mountain View, California, and a member of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation’s scientific advisory board. Plus, they’re tiny. A young, immature tick, called a nymphthe stage of development during which these bloodsuckers are most likely to transmit Lyme diseaseis roughly the size of a pinhead when it latches on, “so you don’t know it’s there,” she told Health.
According to the CDC, the incubation period for Lymein other words, the time between a person’s exposure to Borrelia bacteria and symptom onsetranges from three to 30 days. The main symptoms of Lyme disease in the early days and weeks after infection can include:
“Often these people are more sick than you would expect from a cold,” said Dr. Green. “They’re in the doctor’s office in the middle of summer, and they feel bad. They often do have headache or light sensitivity.” Even new onset ringing in the ear can be a sign of Lyme, which can affect any cranial nerve, she said.
Jennie Johnson, MD, an attending physician of infectious diseases at Providence, Rhode Island-based Lifespan, says knee swelling is common. “They get a lot of fluid in the joint, and their joint gets big and swollen, and it’s uncomfortable,” she told Health.
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