If you live in a tick infested area, this guide is for you. Almost anyone can get Lyme disease but most susceptible groups are young children and elderly or immune-compromised individuals. Let us take a look at ways to prevent ticks and tick bites.
Who is at risk for Lyme disease?
- Anyone who has visited thick forest areas or grassy trails can be at risk for tick bites and subsequent Lyme disease or other infections.
- Lyme disease symptoms include a thick, red rash in the form of Bull’s-eye or target pattern, fever, muscle aches, fatigue or lethargy, chills, etc.
- Families with pets having ticks could also unknowingly get the disease.
Lyme disease symptoms can occur anytime within a month of being exposed to ticks and tick bites. If you or a loved one has these symptoms and has spent time outdoors in areas known for ticks, speak to your doctor right away.
How to keep yourself tick free?
- When outdoors in infested areas, wear loose and light colored clothing with full sleeves. Tuck the sleeves and pants inside shoes.
- Take a shower once you are back after camping, trekking etc.
- Use insect repellents. The best ones contain 20-30% DEET. This is particularly useful against mosquitoes, bed bugs, ticks and many other outdoor bugs. Spray the repellent all over the clothes, exposed skin as well as shoes.
- Clear and mow the grass outdoors. This will prevent ticks in gardens and yards. Grass kept to less than 3 inches is ideal as there are fewer hiding spaces for bugs like ticks.
- If you have playground equipment, keep it away from tall grass as well as tree branches.
- Reduce harborage areas by minimizing clutter in the yards. Pick up and discard unused toys, bikes, and tires etc which provide hiding areas for animals that carry ticks.
- After coming back indoors, inspect each others’ bodies. Check the scalp, areas behind the ears and knees, elbows, neck etc. If you find a tick, remove it immediately using tweezers and wash the bite with warm water and soap.
To remove a tick
- Use fine pair of tweezers to pull the tick out vertically.
- Always pull the tick upwards from its neck. This is to remove the tick entirely and assure that no part of it is left in the skin.
- Do not put excess pressure while tweezing. This could cause the tick to burst letting infected blood back into the bitten area. This could increase risk of Lyme disease.
- Clean the bite with soap/rubbing alcohol iodine scrub or water.
- Sometimes, you might develop a small bump in the skin where you were bitten. This will go away in a couple of days. Do not panic-this is not one of the Lyme disease symptoms.
When should you see a doctor?
If you have been bitten by a tick, watch out for following Lyme disease symptoms:
- Facial paralysis
- Rash in the form of bulls-eye
- Joint ache
Failure to seek treatment could lead to complications as tick bites are known to cause problems in the spine, nervous system, brain and even the heart. Long term complications like severe arthritis might be present.
Medicines to treat Lyme disease symptoms
Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics along with fever reducing medicines. Take the complete dose even if you feel better after one-two doses. You will feel tired while recovering. So take plenty of rest. Eat a healthy and balanced diet. Avoid waiting for a long time to seek treatment. Also do not use some self-medication as doing so could lead to symptoms which are harder to treat.
Recovery from Lyme disease
Lyme disease symptoms are debilitating and can occur long after the infection is gone. Many patients continue to experience body aches, joint pain etc. Take plenty of rest. Continue taking medicines as directed. You may need to repeat antibiotic course should your doctor feel the need. Some more blood tests may also be recommended to ensure that the toxins are eliminated completely. Do not let this alarm you as it need not necessarily mean that you are still infected.