According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 300,000 people are affected by Lyme disease every year, but the statistics could be higher because a lot of cases remain undetected and undiagnosed. Judging by these estimates, it is safe to say that Lyme disease is quite prevalent in the United States.
In fact, it is the most common vector-borne disease in the country. Some celebrities have also spoken about their battle with the disease, leading to more awareness.
Lyme disease can affect anyone at any age. Those who love the outdoors are more at risk of exposure to ticks that bring the disease. Knowing this, it’s natural to feel somewhat worried.
If you are looking for ways to keep yourself and your family safe from this disease, you’re in luck. At Urgent Care of the Palm Beaches, we believe that prevention is better than treatment.
As the first step to prevention is learning as much as you can about the disease, we’ll discuss what you should know about it. Read on to know the cause and symptoms associated with Lyme disease, as well as some prevention tips. We’ll also share how you can tell whether it’s time to seek medical services for your symptoms.
What is Lyme Disease and What Causes It?
Also known as borreliosis, Lyme disease is a tick-borne bacterial infection. So far, it is known to be transmitted by three types of ticks: taiga ticks, black-legged ticks, and castor bean ticks. These ticks carry the bacteria, which they transfer and spread to the animals and humans they bite.
The bacterium called Borrelia causes Lyme disease. It lives inside the blood-sucking ticks that can infect humans by biting our skin. The bacteria may then attack the human body’s immune system and cause complications in the nervous system, joints, skin, and eyes.
What Are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease
The signs and symptoms of Lyme disease vary depending on the stage of the disease. However, some of these symptoms may overlap with each other.
Early Signs of Lyme Disease
Right after you get bitten by a tick that carries borrelia bacteria, you may notice a small, red bump similar to that of a mosquito bite. Take note that not all red bumps are from ticks. Even if you are bitten by a tick, it does not necessarily mean you’ll get Lyme disease.
However, if you got infected, you may experience the following within a month:
- Rashes (erythema migrans). Within 3 to 30 days after being bitten by a host tick, a red rash with a clear area in the middle may appear. This rash slowly expands, spreading up to 12 inches in diameter. It can feel painful and warm to the touch.
- Other signs of infections. In addition to the rash, a patient may experience typical infection symptoms, including fever, headache, body ache, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and stiff neck.
Advanced Signs of Lyme Disease
A patient may experience additional symptoms as Lyme disease progresses. The following symptoms may show weeks or months after infection:
- Rashes. Erythema migrans may appear during the later stage of Lyme disease. Furthermore, it may spread to other parts of the body.
- Joint pain. Patients with advanced Lyme disease can experience severe episodes of joint pain and tenderness. This commonly affects the knees, but may also affect other joints.
- Neurological symptoms. Lyme disease can cause inflammation in the brain (meningitis), Bell’s palsy, and limb and muscle weakness.
Other Less Common Signs of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease can also trigger other symptoms and conditions several weeks after infection, such as:
- Eye inflammation
- Severe fatigue
- Heart problems
- Liver problems
Thinking You Might Have Lyme Disease? This is When You Should See a Doctor
If you think you may have been bitten by a tick and the following applies to you, it’s best to schedule an appointment with a doctor near you:
- You are experiencing any of the symptoms described above.
- Your area is known for having Lyme disease cases.
Can Lyme Disease Go Away on Its Own?
The signs and symptoms of Lyme disease can disappear. However, the absence of symptoms does not mean the disease is also gone. This is why it is recommended that you seek medical attention immediately if you experience any symptoms associated with Lyme disease.
What Happens if Lyme Disease Goes Untreated?
Lyme disease treatment is more effective when measures are started early. When left untreated, the disease can spread and affect other parts of the body. As a result, it can cause joint, muscle, neurological, and other health problems.
How to Prevent Lyme Disease: Some Tips to Keep in Mind
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine that works against Lyme disease at the present time. While the number of cases might be a cause for concern, we have compiled the following ways of preventing Lyme disease. Use this as your guide.
1. Be aware that ticks are everywhere.
It was initially believed that Lyme disease is only prevalent in the Midwest and Northeast. However, Quest Diagnostics published a report in 2018 to confirm that Lyme disease is present in 50 states in the U.S.
Ticks are not just found in animals like dogs, or horses. These parasites may also thrive in damp, green, and wooded areas like a garden, an outdoor camping site, or the beach grass by the ocean. A person might be gardening, or playing on the sandy beach without realizing that he has been bitten by ticks.
2. Protect yourself if you’re outdoors.
Insect repellents can work on ticks quite well so if you have to spend a good amount of time outdoors, be sure to apply this product to your skin as protection. Go over the list of bug repellent chemicals from the Environment Working Group if you’re wary of using toxic repellents. You can also make your own repellent by using essential oils like eucalyptus, tea tree, and clove.
Choose the right kinds of clothing, such as long pants, socks, and long-sleeve shirts if you know you’re going to be in an area with potential tick infestation. Use hair ties, or a hat to prevent ticks from landing on your head. As much as possible, wear closed shoes, instead of sandals, if you’re going to a wooded area, or to places with plenty of shrubs, bushes or trees.
3. Clean yourself thoroughly after an outdoor romp.
If you’ve spent a good amount of time outdoors, be sure to properly and thoroughly clean yourself well as soon as you get home. Because some ticks can be tiny – they can hide under the breasts, in the groin area, in your hair, by the armpits, in the crevices of your body, or behind the knee. Be sure to wash and soap these areas in your body well and take showers often, especially during the summer when tick infestation is prevalent.
4. Boost your immune system.
There have been people exposed to the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, but they’ve never had any problems, or medical incidents. Doctors believe that having a strong immune system can be the best preventive measure against the condition.
Boosting a person’s immunity involves a few simple things:
- Regularly eat foods rich in nutrients like whole foods and green, or leafy vegetables.
- Include probiotic foods in your diet.
- Always get a good night’s sleep.
- Perform adequate exercises at least three times a week.
- Avoid stress at work, or in relationships.
5. Check for ticks when you get home.
Ticks can attach to the skin without being noticed. They can also hitch a ride with pets, clothing and accessories, then attach to your skin later. As such, you should thoroughly check everything that you took with you outdoors for ticks, including yourself. Remove any ticks you find. Then, wash and dry clothes on high heat for at least 10 minutes to kill ticks that you may have missed. Using hot water to wash the clothes is recommended, too.
Furthermore, you should also take a shower within two hours after coming indoors. You should also do a full-body check. Examine in and around the ears and hair, as well as under the arms, inside the belly button, back of the knees, between the legs, and around the waist.
How to Remove Ticks Safely?
Although there are many Lyme disease cases every year, only a small number of tick bites actually lead to Lyme disease. Furthermore, you can avoid getting infected if the tick is attached to your skin for less than 36 hours.
Now, if you find a tick attached to your skin, you need to remove it immediately. However, you have to do it properly and safely. Follow these steps:
- Get a tick removal device of a fine-tipped tweezer.
- Grasp the tick with the tweezer as close to the skin as possible.
- Pull the tick upward with an even and steady pressure. Don’t jerk or twist the tick to keep the parts of its mouth from breaking off and remaining in the skin.
- When you’ve successfully removed the tick, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water. Disinfect with alcohol.
Moreover, if you accidentally left the mouth of the tick on the skin, try to remove it using the tweezer. However, if you cannot remove it, leave the skin be and let it heal.
Additionally, do not try to kill a tick by crushing it. You can simply drown it in alcohol, wrap it tightly in a sealed plastic or tape, or flush it down the toilet.
Further Information on Urgent Care of the Palm Beaches
Do you have further questions about Lyme Disease? Or would you like to schedule a consultation? Indeed, knowing that you can get Lyme disease especially if you are often outdoors can be worrying.
Fortunately, by knowing how to protect yourself and your loved ones, you can keep Lyme disease at bay. However, if you experience any symptoms, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible. You can contact or visit any of our three locations for immediate medical care:
We also offer telemedicine urgent care in Florida so you can get an initial consultation safely from your home. Furthermore, if you are wondering whether your symptoms are caused by Lyme disease or COVID-19, we can rule out the latter through rapid COVID-19 testing.
Contact our Urgent Care today and we will assist you! For more info and inquiries, contact us.
The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.