Look out for Lyme

tick insect warning sign in forest

Summer is the ideal time to enjoy the outdoors, but while you’re interacting with nature, you need to look out for ticks that carry Lyme disease, the most common tick-borne disease in the United States.

About 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year, according to the CDC, and new research suggests that number will rise by 20% by mid-century.

“People are spending more time outside, which is great, but that exposure also increases the risk for Lyme disease, especially in endemic areas, including most of the Northeast and Midwest,” says Dr. David Crandell, director of the Dean Center for Tick Borne Illness at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. “Plus, as more people move into suburbs near wooded areas or adjacent to conservation land, the risk is even greater. You don’t need to fear time in nature as long as you take certain precautions before and after your outings.”

Lyme warningsContact your doctor if you notice any of the following signs and symptoms:Bull’s-eye rash at the site of the tick biteFeverChillsFatigueMuscle achesJoint aches

Symptoms and signs

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi, which is spread by tick bites.

The earliest symptom often is a bull’s-eye rash at the site of the tick bite, but it is sometimes missed. Other early signs may include fever, chills, fatigue, and muscle and joint aches. Later symptoms can include joint pain and swelling or “brain fog” that can come and go.

If not diagnosed and left untreated, Lyme disease may lead to long-term health problems like arthritis, severe fatigue, or even memory problems.

Blood tests can confirm the presence of antibodies to Borrelia. But the test can give a false-negative result if performed too early. Also false positives are common, and both situations can lead to an incorrect diagnosis, says Dr. Crandell. Once confirmed, Lyme disease is treated with an antibiotic such as doxycycline. Doctors often follow a two- to-four-week treatment regimen recommended by the CDC.

“Most people respond well to the antibiotics,” says Dr. Crandell. “However, some symptoms and signs can last for several months or even years after appropriate treatment.”

Tick checklist

Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to Lyme disease. Here are some steps to protect yourself before and after heading outside.

Treat yourself. Pretreat your clothing with the insect repellent permethrin. “Spray your clothing — including your pants, shirts, socks, and shoes — and gear like backpacks at the beginning of summer, and once again as fall begins, since ticks are still out there even when the weather begins to get cooler,” says Dr. Crandell. Cover exposed skin with a repellent that contains DEET (at least 20%), picaridin, or IR3535. (Find repellent recommendations from the Environmental Protection Agency at www.health.harvard.edu/repellents.)

Dry your clothes. When you come inside from the outdoors, toss your clothes into the dryer for 10 minutes. (The high heat kills the ticks.)

Check your body. Next, do a thorough skin check. “You don’t feel tick bites like you do with a mosquito bite, so you have to look for them,” says Dr. Crandell. Pay attention to your armpits, groin, and scalp, as ticks are attracted to warm, moist environments. “Checking your body while showering is often a good way to complete your tick check,” says Dr. Crandell. “If you have any visual impairment, you may need to enlist the help of a partner.”

Be smart about your petsWhile a pet cannot transmit Lyme disease to humans, you should routinely check your pets for ticks if they have been outside and remove them as you would if they were on your own body. If you have a dog or cat that spends a lot of time outdoors, ask your veterinarian about the Lyme disease vaccine for animals, and whether you should use a monthly topical treatment or tick repellent collar.

Search and destroy

The good news is that Lyme disease is unlikely to occur if the tick is attached for less than 36 to 48 hours. “It can take time for an infected tick to transmit Lyme disease after a bite,” says Dr. Crandell. “Still, you want to get the tick off quickly because it also can carry other bacteria, parasites, and viruses.”

If you find an engorged tick attached to your skin, and you live in an area where Lyme disease is common, antibiotic treatment can prevent the disease, so contact your doctor to discuss this preventive option.

To remove an attached tick, use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. After removing the tick, clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, or soap and warm water.

Monitor the area for a rash and watch for symptoms. “You should contact your doctor if you begin to experience any, or have questions about your exposure to a tick bite,” says Dr. Crandell. If you find a tick crawling around on you, or in your house, this does not mean you have been infected. Again, watch for a rash and early signs.

Below are spiritual recipe for health and wellness: Matthew E. McLaren

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 

Do everything in love.1 Corinthians 16:14 

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.

Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:8

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Proverbs 3:3-4

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:14 

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 1 John 4:16 

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2 

We love because He first loved us.1 John 4:19 

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love. Ephesians 3:16-17 

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1Corinthians 13:13 

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Romans 12:9  NIV

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