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Lessons on Lyme

Travel smart this summer and learn more about the precautions you can take to avoid tick bites, as well as the chances of contracting Lyme Disease.

Taking a trip to upstate NY this season? Heading to the east coast of the United States for the first time? Don’t know much about the chance of tick bites? Travel smart and learn more about the precautions you can take to avoid tick bites, as well as the chances of contracting Lyme Disease.

How do you catch Lyme disease?

Humans can only contract Lyme Disease through a tick bite. Ticks live in woodlands and wetlands, prairie habitats with tall grass, gardens, forests, and urban parks. Human contaminations are more frequent during the high seasonal activity pattern of the ticks, generally at the beginning of the spring and the end of the fall. Researchers refer to it as an emerging disease because cases of Lyme Disease are increasing.

How do you protect yourself?

What to wear: If hunters and foresters are familiar with ticks, children are vulnerable. It is recommended to avoid wearing shorts and sandals. Wear full length pants tucked into socks to avoid the possibility of the tick making its way to your skin. The more your body is covered, the safer you are. Make sure small children are also wearing a cap on their heads, since ticks can also target the scalp.

Take caution with tall or wet grass, typically in under-growths or prairies. The ticks can and will climb! When looking for food, they stand on top of grass leaves and wait for their prey.

Gardens are also a place where ticks can be found, even though a well-maintained garden will have a smaller chance of having them.

The more your body is covered, the safer you are.

What to do daily: At the end of the day, complete a full-body inspection. You really have to look everywhere. If you remove them fast, there are less chances of transmission.

European experimental data show that the risk of transmission of the Lyme Borreliosis is significant after 24 hours of tick attachment. It is at its maximum from 72 hours on.

What are the symptoms?

Around 30 days after the bite, Lyme Disease appears first in the form of a red, round-shaped mark (erythema migrans), which grows concentrically from the site of the bite. It takes several weeks to a few months to totally disappear. It forms a kind of reddish halo. Another symptom of the infection is a flu-like state (joint pains, fever). In that case, it is recommended to see a doctor, since an antibiotic treatment will work if it is taken in time.

If not treated at all, the secondary phase of the disease – which is not systematic – may appear and worsen the prognosis. If the patient does not receive an antibiotic treatment, neurological symptoms or joint pains may occur. Sometimes, other organs might be affected several weeks or a few months after the bite.

Months and even sometimes years after the infection, people can have tertiary side-effects: joint pains, skin rashes, neurological, muscular, and cardiac conditions.

It is important to pay attention to the following signs:
  • A rash, which may appear the same way it did during the first phase
  • Skin lesions or red spots
  • Joint pain and aches
  • Arthritis in the knees, the shoulders, the elbows, etc.
Long-term conditions include:
  • Neurological disorders
  • Meningitis
  • Facial paralysis
  • Cardiac disorders
  • Cases of fainting, heart palpitations, etc.
If you have been bitten, what should you do?

Remove the tick with pointy tweezers. Grab the tick and turn the tweezers. Do not pull. Make sure the entire tick is gone, then clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol. Place the tick in a freezer bag and have it analyzed by a doctor. You will find out right away if the tick was a Lyme disease carrier or not.

Image Credit: Francoise Hartman

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