Ticks can be no bigger than a penpoint, but can bring with them some serious health problems. Amra Nasir, MD, with Adventist HealthCare Urgent Care, answers some questions about the common tick-borne illness Lyme disease and how to prevent it.
What causes Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is caused by a certain type of bacteria and is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected tick. There are many different types of ticks and not all carry Lyme disease. The most common tick that spread the disease is infected deer ticks.
What are the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease?
There are three stages of Lyme disease. The first and second stages typically start around three days after a tick bite occurs and could last for several weeks. You may notice a rash that is often in the shape of a circle or bullseye. The rash can spread to other parts of the body, as well. The second stage often leads to flu-like symptoms: achiness, swollen joints, fatigue. The third stage can occur months after the bite. Symptoms could include headaches, neck stiffness, arthritis and some neurological and cardiac effects such as, dizziness, short-term memory loss, inflammation, nerve pain and heart palpitations.
How can I avoid contracting Lyme disease?
Because humans contract Lyme disease through ticks, it’s crucial to avoid tick bites whenever possible. Wear light-colored clothing so that they are easy to spot and wear long sleeves and pants when hiking, gardening, or walking through tall grass or wooded areas. Use a repellant that contains DEET for extra protection.
If you have been in areas where ticks are common, make sure to check your clothing and body. Common places ticks are found are under arms, around ears, belly buttons, knees, legs and waist.
What should I do if I’ve been bitten by a tick, or think I have Lyme disease?
If you’ve been bitten by a tick and it’s still attached, it’s important to properly remove it as quickly as possible. Use tweezers to remove the tick as closely to the skin and pull upward to completely remove the tick. After the tick has been removed, clean the area with soap and water. If you begin to experience symptoms, see your doctor or an Urgent Care provider within 24 hours so that you can be tested for Lyme and be prescribed antibiotics. If you do not see a tick, but notice the rash, or are experiencing any of the other symptoms, see your doctor.