Avoid Ticks – Avoid Lyme Disease
Lyme disease which derived its name from Lyme, Connecticut, where maximum cases were found in 1975 of this disease, is a bacterial infection spread by tick. There are at least three species of the bacteria of genus Borrelia, involved in the outbreak of this disease. It is the commonest tick-borne disease in the Northern Hemisphere, prevalent in North America and Europe. Borrelia enters human body through the bite of infected ticks.
Early symptoms of the Lyme disease include headache, fever, depression, fatigue and a typical skin rash named erythema migrans (EM). If the disease is left untreated, the later symptoms affect heart, joints and central nervous system. Most of the times, antibiotics are enough to eliminate the disease and its symptoms, particularly if an early treatment is given. However, if there is a delay or inadequacy in the treatment, more serious symptoms can show, which may be disabling and hard to treat, like arthritis and neurological problems.
Many of the symptoms are not characteristic to Lyme disease and can occur with other disorders too. Usually the incubation period from infection to onset of symptoms is one to two weeks, but it can vary from a shorter period to a much longer one, i.e. months or years.
Transmission of Lyme Disease
The animals that carry ticks are white-footed field mice, raccoons, deer, skunks, opossums, foxes, weasels, moles, squirrels, chipmunks, horses and shrews. Most of the carrier ticks are found in Connecticut, New York, Maryland, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
In early days of the disease, it can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics like amoxycycline or doxycycline taken orally for two to four weeks can relieve the rash quickly and usually prevent the onset of subsequent symptoms like neurological problems or arthritis. There is no evidence showing that prolonged therapy of antibiotics is more effective than a two-week treatment; on the contrary, it can cause serious side effects. Fatigue and pain sustain many times after completion of a 2-week therapy, which diminish slowly, without the use of added antibiotics. There is also no evidence that Borrelia infection gives fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. However, some patients may develop these diseases, like other patients of these diseases.
As we know the cause of Lyme disease, we can prevent it fortunately. Avoidance of deer ticks is the most essential. Though only 1% of them are transmitters, in some areas over half of them carry the microbe. Deer ticks are more commonly found in grassy and wooded areas and also commoner in places where two areas merge, like neighborhood yards, where deer roam. Ticks do not survive in sunny lawns for long; they dry out there and die.
Some tips for the prevention of Lyme diseases are:
- Wear light-colored, long-sleeved and firmly woven clothes while roaming in wooded areas.
- Tuck your shirt in the pant and pant tucked in socks or shoes.
- Walk in the middle of trails in the woods to avoid picking up ticks from surrounding grasses.
- Use tick repellents like permethrin with DEET on clothes, socks and shoes before entering the wood. Some of these repellents can cause serious side effects, especially when used in high concentration on skin. Infants and children should not use them.
- Check yourself, your family and pets regularly for ticks, particularly after an outing.
- Shampoo your hair and take a shower if you think that you might have picked up ticks.
- Check clothes and wash them promptly if you doubt that they have picked up ticks.
What to Do on Tick-bite?
- Tug the ‘head’ of the tick gently but tightly with blunt tweezers till it loses hold on the skin.
- Do not crush the tick’s body or don’t handle it with bare fingers to minimize the risk of getting in contact with the bacteria inside it.
- Wash the bitten area carefully with an antiseptic to steer clear of infection.
- NEVER use kerosene, fingernail polish, Vaseline or a cigarette butt while washing the bitten area.
- NEVER squeeze the tick’s body with bare fingers or tweezers.