Ticks deliver a variety of diseases, with Lyme disease at the top. The cases of these diseases are climbing, and have jumped from 12,000 per year in 1995 to almost 40,000 per year in 2015. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) try to keep track of the figures, but expert estimates put the real number of infections closer to 300,000.
Who is Susceptible to Lyme Disease, and at What Time of Year?
The bite from an infected disease is how Lyme disease is spread. The little pests will attach anywhere but are most attracted to most hairy body regions, such as the armpits and groin.
Anyone can fall prey to a tick bite, but outdoorsy types like hikers and campers, as well as people who work in gardens or leafy areas, are at the highest risk. With the suburbs expanding and woodland preservation in full effect, the number of deer and mice are on the rise, giving ticks plenty to feast on.
The Symptoms and Stages of Lyme Disease
Early-stage Lyme disease comes with the following symptoms:
- muscle and joint aches
- swollen lymph nodes
A rash that is known as Erythema migrans is another symptom found with Lyme disease. Roughly 80% of people infected with the disease will develop a rash, with about 20% of that number having a rash that looks like a bulls-eye.
The infection can reach the joints, nervous system, and heart if left untreated.
It may take weeks or months after a tick bite for later-stage symptoms to present themselves. These symptoms include:
- heart-rhythm irregularities
- arthritic symptoms such as pain and swelling in the joint, particularly the knee
- nervous system abnormalities
The joints and nervous system can be hit with permanent damage during the late stages of Lyme disease. Fatalities are extremely rare.
Testing for and Treating Lyme Disease
You should talk to your doctor if you believe you may have Lyme disease.
Diagnostic tests that your doctor may use to check for Lyme disease are regulated by the FDA to ensure that they are safe and effective. Blood tests can be effective assuming the timing is right. These tests check for the antibodies that fight infection, but if they are done too soon after the tick bite, they may not work as well. Antibodies usually develop 2-5 weeks after the initial bite.
Prior to the completion of diagnostic tests, your doctor may prescribe a round of antibiotics. The CDC says that patients that are treated with the correct antibiotics may well experience a speedy, complete recovery from the early stages of Lyme disease.
Things You Can Do to Prevent Tick Bites
- Steer clear of bushy, grassy areas, especially between May and July
- Wear light-colored clothing so that you can easily spot ticks
- Shoes, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts are essential wear
- Tuck your shirt into your pants and your pants into your socks
- Add an extra layer of protection by wearing a hat
- Use insect spray with DEET on all uncovered body parts
- Stick to trails and keep off grass and brush
- Wash and dry your clothes at high temperatures when you get back indoors
- Scan your body for ticks after being outside