Are You Prepared for This Summer’s Tiniest Villains?

I was working in my garden, and guess what I discovered yesterday, once again?  I spotted another tick on myself!  Because of this, I thought it would be a great time to discuss ticks all over again – what they do, what you should do if you find one on yourself, and all about Lyme disease.

Are You Prepared for This Summer’s Tiniest Villains-742474_1280Over 30,000 new cases of Lyme disease are diagnosed each summer, and 90% occur in 10 states.  New York is one of those states.  This disease is an infection caused by the bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, which enters the body from an infected deer tick’s bite.

While the tick is attached, it begins to suck blood from the victim, and at this time, it regurgitates the bacteria back into the person’s system.  Most of the infections in humans are caused from the bites of immature ticks called nymphs, which are the size of poppy seeds.  The disease can also be transmitted from the bite of an adult deer tick, but because they are larger, they are more likely to be discovered before having time to transmit the disease.

The Infectious Disease Society of America does not recommend antibiotics for everyone who has been bitten by a tick.  If the rash of Lyme disease develops, then antibiotics are advised.

The rash is the easily noticed circular “bull’s eye” target-like rash.  This rash can begin anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks after the bite.  It starts out being the size of a quarter and can widen to 6 to 9 inches as the bacteria spread out.  If your anxiety of developing the disease is great, many doctors will treat you with doxycycline if you do not have an allergy to the medication.

You Found a Tick on Yourself – What Are the Next Steps?

Once you have discovered that a tick is on your body, you remove it with tweezers.  Try to detach it at the base of the tick’s attachment.  If it is removed within 24 to 48 hours, it is unlikely that it has infected you withTick Removal Display Image Lyme disease.  Also, it is important to remember that only 1 in 20 people bitten with an infected tick will develop the disease.  Not every deer tick carries the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, with usually 1 in 5 being carriers in high risk areas.

An Alternate Way to Remove Those Ticks!

I recently learned about a different way to help remove a tick.  Take a cotton ball and put liquid soap on it.  Cover the discovered tick with the cotton ball and rub the soap on the tick for a few seconds.  Usually the tick will dislodge on its own and be stuck to the cotton ball as you take it away.  Hopefully you will not need to try this method but keep it in the back of your mind.

What Is Most Likely to Happen if You Are Diagnosed with Lyme Disease?

When Lyme disease has been diagnosed because you have the “bull’s eye” rash from a tick bite or a positive blood test, your medical team will usually prescribe an antibiotic regimen.  Depending upon your history of allergies, two of the most common treatments are amoxicillin (500 mg three times a day for 14 to 21 days) or doxycycline (100 mg twice a day for 14 to 21 days).

Bull's Eye Rash (Tick)

Intravenous antibiotic treatments are not often needed, but they are needed when the Lyme infections are more serious.  These would include infections around the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) or heart (carditis).

I would like to leave you with two interesting facts about Lyme disease.  If for some reason you get the infection and do not obtain treatment with an antibiotic, you have about a 10-15% risk of developing Lyme arthritis, and this needs to be treated with a different antibiotic plan.

Even after treating Lyme disease and having no blood tests pointing to an active disease, about 10-20% of people will not feel well for months, having complaints of being exhausted and joint pain.  Antibiotics do not seem to be the answer for this frustrating condition.  The passage of time is the ultimate treatment.

Enjoy your summer and always check your clothes and body for ticks after working or playing outdoors in a grassy area.  Then take a shower, which removes the ticks off your body and prevents those troublesome bites!

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-Dr. P

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