How You Get Lyme Disease
If a tick bites an animal carrying the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, the tick can become infected. The tick can then transfer the bacteria to a human by biting them.
Ticks can be found in any areas with deep or overgrown plants where they have access to animals to feed on.
They’re common in woodland and moorland areas, but can also be found in gardens or parks.
Ticks don’t jump or fly. They climb on to your clothes or skin if you brush against something they’re on. They then bite into the skin and start to feed on your blood.
Generally, you’re more likely to become infected if the tick is attached to your skin for more than 24 hours. Ticks are very small and their bites are not painful, so you may not realise you have one attached to your skin.
Early Signs Of Lyme Disease
The signs and symptoms of Lyme disease vary and usually appear in stages.
Early signs and symptoms
A small, red bump often appears at the site of a tick bite or tickremoval and resolves over a few days. This is normal after a tick bite and doesnot indicate Lyme disease. However, these signs and symptoms may occur within amonth after you’ve been infected:
- Rash. From3 to 30 days after an infected tick bite, an expanding red area might appearthat sometimes clears in the center, forming a bulls-eye pattern. The rash expands slowly over days and can spread to 12 inches across. It is typically not itchy or painful. Erythema migrans isone of the hallmarks of Lyme disease. Some people develop this rash at morethan one place on their bodies.
- Flu-likesymptoms. Fever, chills, fatigue, body aches and a headache may accompany therash.
Later signs and symptoms
If untreated, new signs and symptoms of Lyme infection might appear inthe following weeks to months. These include:
- Erythemamigrans appearing in other areas of your body.
- Jointpain. Bouts of severe joint pain and swelling are especially likely to affectyour knees, but the pain can shift from one joint to another.
- Neurologicalproblems. Weeks, months or even years after infection, you might developinflammation of the membranes surrounding your brain , temporaryparalysis of one side of your face , numbness or weakness in yourlimbs, and impaired muscle movement.
- Nausea andvomiting
Less common signs and symptoms
Stage : Quickly Expanding Rash
After being bitten by a black-legged tick, a quickly growing rash can appear. This is the earliest stage of Lyme disease, known as stage 1.
Most people who develop a rash, get it within days or weeks of being bitten by a tick.
Where you see the rash: If you develop a rash, it appears near the tick bit you. For most people, that means the back, groin, armpit, or a lower leg. However, a tick can bite you anywhere.
What the rash can look like: You may see a spot or bump on the skin, which is the bite mark. Around or near the bite mark, a rash develops. Some people see the bulls-eye rash . You can also have one of the other rashes shown here.
Early rash caused by Lyme disease
Notice the bite mark in the center of this early rash, which will expand quickly.
Bull’s-eye rash on woman’s upper arm
This is another early sign of Lyme disease.
Lyme disease rash with lighter color on the outside
This rash has expanded, but you can still see the bite mark in the center.
Rash from Lyme disease has begun to clear
As the rash begins to clear, the redness fades.
If you develop a rash during this stage, you may notice that it:
Feels smooth and warm to the touch
Causes a burning sensation
Itches or feels painful
Has an outer edge that feels scaly or crusty
When the rash and symptoms begin: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , the rash begins 3 to 30 days after the tick bites you.
About 50% of people who have Lyme disease develop flu-like symptoms , which include:
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Six Years After Tick Bite Its Markand The Illnessstill Show
You see that little spot on my calf? You wouldnt think that a small bite like this would change someones life, turn it upside down, crush their goals and dreams, shake them to their core, causing immense pain and profound fatigue along with a multitude of other symptoms and issues.
That bite also caused a secondary neurological disorder which affects my heart and all body systems , as well as a brain lesion. That bite is from a tick. Yes thats a tick bite from six years ago! Out of the hundreds of people with Lyme disease that I have met, only one other had a re-appearing bite years after she was bitten. This is not very common, but it does show how resilient and chronic this bacteria can be.
I remember the day as if it were yesterday. We were at a local creek, and the tick was only attached for a few hours. My husband saw the tick, as well as my parents, and my father removed the tick for me.
A few weeks later I developed flu-like symptoms and a rash . Because my case was not a textbook diagnosis, I was sent away without even being prescribed precautionary antibiotics.
Also, I was told that we did not have Lyme disease in Georgia so the doctor refused to order a Lyme disease test. Pretty tragic that the urgent care doctors decision and lack of knowledge has affected my entire life six years later.
We need recognition, we need accurate testing, we need Lyme-literate doctors, we need understanding, we need awareness, we need a cure!
Can Lyme Disease Be Prevented Or Avoided
The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to avoid being bitten by ticks. When you are outdoors, follow these guidelines:
- Avoid areas that are wooded, brushy, or have tall grass.
- Walk in the center of trails.
- Use an insect repellent with at least 20% DEET. It can be put on clothing or sparingly on the skin. Dont apply it to the face or hands of children.
- Treat clothing, tents, or other gear with repellents containing 0.5% permethrin.
- Wear light-colored clothing. This makes it easier to see and remove ticks from your clothes.
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Tuck your pant legs into your socks or boots for added protection.
After you get home, check everything and everyone for ticks.
- Bathe or shower as soon as you can to wash off any ticks that have not attached to you.
- Check your entire body for ticks. Use a mirror for places you cant see. Check your children and your pets. Common tick locations include the back of the knees, groin area, underarms, ears, scalp, and the back of the neck.
- Check any gear you used, including coats, backpacks, or tents.
Tumble dry clothes or blankets on high heat in the dryer for 10 to 15 minutes. This should kill any ticks. If clothes are dirty, wash them in hot water and dry on high heat for 60 minutes.
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What Are The Complications Of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease affects people differently. Relapse and incomplete treatment responses happen. Relapse and incomplete treatment responses happen. Complications of untreated early-stage disease include:
Frequent hospitalizations to manage the disease
Some of these complications result in chronic, debilitating conditions.
Some people may develop post-Lyme disease syndrome . A condition also known as chronic Lyme disease includes PLDS, but also other syndromes. Usually, these are characterized by persistent musculoskeletal and peripheral nerve pain, fatigue, and memory impairment.
The Following Are The Most Common Misunderstood Facts About Tick Bites:
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Stage : Late Disseminated Lyme Disease
Late disseminated Lyme disease occurs when the infection hasnt been treated in stages 1 and 2. Stage 3 can occur months or years after the tick bite.
This stage is characterized by:
- arthritis of one or more large joints
- brain disorders, such as encephalopathy, which can cause short-term memory loss, difficulty concentrating, mental fogginess, problems with following conversations and sleep disturbance
- numbness in the arms, legs, hands, or feet
What Are The Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
Early symptoms of Lyme disease start between 3 to 30 days after an infected tick bites you. The symptoms can include:
- A red rash called erythema migrans . Most people with Lyme disease get this rash. It gets bigger over several days and may feel warm. It is usually not painful or itchy. As it starts to get better, parts of it may fade. Sometimes this makes the rash look like a “bull’s-eye.”
- Muscle and joint aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
If the infection is not treated, it can spread to your joints, heart, and nervous system. The symptoms may include:
- Severe headaches and neck stiffness
- Additional EM rashes on other areas of your body
- Facial palsy, which is a weakness in your facial muscles. It can cause drooping on one or both sides of your face.
- Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, especially in your knees and other large joints
- Pain that comes and goes in your tendons, muscles, joints, and bones
- Heart palpitations, which are feelings that your heart is skipping a beat, fluttering, pounding, or beating too hard or too fast
- Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet
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Stage : Later Signs And Symptoms
If you do have Lyme disease and it goes untreated untreated, new signs and symptoms of Lyme infection might appear in the following weeks to months. These include:
- Erythema migrans. The rash may appear on other areas of your body.
- Joint pain. Bouts of severe joint pain and swelling are especially likely to affect your knees, but the pain can shift from one joint to another.
- Neurological problems. Weeks, months or even years after infection, you might develop inflammation of the membranes surrounding your brain , temporary paralysis of one side of your face , numbness or weakness in your limbs, and impaired muscle movement.
How Long Does A Tick Need To Be Embedded For It To Transmit Disease
The longer a tick is attached, the higher the risk of transmission. Although Lyme disease is not commonly transmitted when ticks are attached for less than 24 hours, the risk of Lyme disease posed by those bites is not zero. There may be other factors that contribute to disease transmission in short duration attachments. In addition, there are other disease-causing bacteria and viruses carried by blacklegged ticks that are known to be transmitted in less than 24 hours.
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How Ticks Find Their Hosts
Ticks can’t fly or jump. Instead, they wait for a host, resting on the tips of grasses and shrubs in a position known as “questing”. While questing, ticks hold onto leaves and grass by their lower legs. They hold their upper pair of legs outstretched, waiting to climb onto a passing host. When a host brushes the spot where a tick is waiting, it quickly climbs aboard. It then finds a suitable place to bite its host.
When To Seek Medical Help
If you develop a rash after being exposed to ticks, you can draw around the rash with a pen and take a photo. This way, you can check if the rash expands.
- The rash is 5 cm in diameter or larger
- The rash lasts more than 48 hours
- You believe you have one or more other symptoms of Lyme disease within days, weeks or months after engaging in outdoor activities where you may be exposed to ticks
If you have noted a bite, provide the information you noted concerning the bite:
- The part of the body that was bitten
- The date and the place you were when you were bitten
If you consult a doctor, bring the tick, if possible, in a closed container such as a pill container.
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When To See A Healthcare Provider
Keep in mind that not all people have all of the classic Lyme disease symptoms, which makes it important to see your practitioner if you develop a rash or fever following a tick bite, especially if you live in or visited an area where there are a lot of Lyme disease cases. In the United States, this includes the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, or north-central states.
Lyme Disease Doctor Discussion Guide
Get our printable guide for your next doctor’s appointment to help you ask the right questions.
Even in hyperendemic areas , the risk of developing Lyme disease is usually estimated to only be 3.5 percent at the most. It’s so low because even though up to 50 percent of ticks in endemic areas are infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, most people remove ticks before the bacteria has had enough time to infect them.
Lyme disease is normally easily treated with common antibiotics. The earlier you’re treated for Lyme disease, the better, but even later stage cases usually respond well to medication.
Simple blood tests, which sometimes must be repeated to rule out infection, can give you and your family peace of mind.
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.
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Where Do Ticks Live
Ticks live outdoors. They hide in grass, trees, shrubs, and underbrush.
If youre outside hiking or playing, a tick might attach itself to you or your pet. Ticks may stay attached to your pet, or they can migrate to you while youre touching or holding your pet. They can also leave you and attach themselves to your pets.
Various kinds of ticks live in large populations throughout the country. Most states have at least one type of tick that lives there. Ticks are at their peak population in the spring and summer months, typically April through September.
How To Avoid Getting A Tick Bite
You might be at risk if you live, work in, or visit a wooded area, or an area with tall grasses and bushes .
You may also be at risk if you are involved in outdoor activities such as hiking, camping and gardening.
You may be bitten by a tick and not even know it.
Heres what you can do to avoid getting a tick bite.
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Seek Medical Care Early To Prevent Lyme Disease From Progressing
Its easy to get bit by a tick and not know it. Most people dont feel a tick on their skin or the bite. Checking your skin for ticks after spending time outdoors can help you find a tick and remove it.
Removing a tick can prevent Lyme disease. A tick must be attached to your skin for at least 36 hours to infect you with the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.
Its not always possible to find a tick, so its important to pay close attention to your skin. If you notice any signs of Lyme disease or develop a rash, get medical care right away. Ticks can cause other serious diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Related AAD resources
ImagesImage 1: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Public Health Image Library, Last accessed May 11, 2017.
Images 2, 3, and 7: Used with permission of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2011 64:619-36.
Image 6: Used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.
ReferencesBhate C and Schwartz RA.
Lyme disease: Part I. Advances and perspectives. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2011 64:619-36.
Lyme disease: Part II. Management and prevention. J Am Acad Dermatol 2011 64:639-53.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
Signs and symptoms of untreated Lyme disease. Page last updated October 26, 2016. Last accessed May 2, 2018.
Lyme disease: transmission. Page lasted updated March 4, 2015. Last accessed May 2, 2018.