If you don’t see that typical bullseye rash after being bit by a tick, there’s a good chance you wouldn't know you may have been exposed to Lyme disease.
For many, a diagnosis comes long after early symptoms show up.
While many across the nation are looking to spend time outside following more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors stress you should watch out for ticks during the summer months, Cleveland Clinic reported.
“It’s actually good that more people are out doing things, being physically active and so forth, we just want them to be safe and want to encourage them to continue to do so,” Dr. Alan Taege, MD, infectious disease specialist for Cleveland Clinic, said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease, otherwise known as the tick-borne illness, affects about more than 400,000 Americans each year.
Here’s what you need to know about the disease and how to prevent it.
How do people get it? Can your pets get it?
Lyme disease is spread through the bite of a tick that is infected. The most common carriers of the disease are deer ticks and black-legged ticks.
The CDC reports that ticks can attach themselves to any part of a person or even your pet. However, frequently it can bite onto hard-to-see areas, including the scalp.
Dr. Taege explained how the most common time of year for tick bites is in the spring and summer months.
Before you go outdoors, make sure that you’re prepared.
Ticks can live in wooded, brushy, or grassy areas or even live on animals. When spending time outside, camping, walking your dog, or gardening, there is opportunity to get in close contact with ticks. However, many people can get ticks in their neighborhood or yard.
Some steps to treat Lyme disease, according to the CDC, include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick habitat.
Also, wearing protective and light-colored clothing helps to see the tick easier. Experts suggest to always check your body closely after being outside.
How to remove a tick?
If you find a tick on your skin, Dr. Taege said it is best to use a pair of “fine-nose” tweezers to remove it. However, be careful not to squeeze it because it could cause bacteria from the tick to go into your bite wound.
“If you check yourself after every time you are outside and you see it early on, you’re unlikely to contract any illness from it," Taege added. "Because particularly Lyme disease, the tick needs to be attached almost 36 hours before it infects you.”
What are the symptoms?
Early symptoms can appear between three and 30 days after an infected tick bite, including flu-like conditions such as headache, fatigue and fever.
According to the CDC, later signs of the disease can include neurological problems, and if left untreated, the disease can spread to the joints and heart.
Dr. Taege said if you start to notice any symptoms, which include a rash, often in a bulls-eye pattern, contact your doctor immediately.
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