What You Need to Know: Lyme Disease

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Summer is in full swing here in the Mid-Atlantic, which means that plenty of outdoor activities are afoot.  From taking a hike to just a stroll down the walking trail, there is plenty to do, but there are also plenty of opportunities for ticks to make a move.  Generally, ticks around the country are not of dire concern, but the Lyme disease carrying variants here in the northeast are certainly a cause for caution.  That being said, please join us in our latest blog as we tell you what you need to know about Lyme disease and how you can be better prepared to tackle it this summer!

First and foremost, let’s start with what Lyme disease is.  The disease is caused by a very specific type of bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi which is transmitted through the bite of a blacklegged tick, which is a fancy term for both deer ticks and dog ticks.  However, the bacteria is only transferred after the tick has latched on for 36 to 48 hours, so there is no need to worry if you spot one and take it off immediately.  Additionally, just because the tick is a blacklegged tick does not mean that it can transmit the bacteria—the bacteria must already be present in the environment for it to transmit.

Yet, the reason why Lyme disease spreads so easily is because it’s usually spread by nymphs—in other words, baby ticks.  These critters are less than 2 mm in size (about the size of a pinhead) and their aptitude to hide in tricky places means that they can be latched on for quite a number of hours before you notice.  Should a nymph latch onto your scalp, finding it may be the equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack.

Therefore, it is crucial that you check yourself for ticks after spending a day outside in a wooded area.  Be sure to not only check the obvious areas, but make sure that you check your armpits, scalp, ears, and the back of your knees—all small places where nymphs love to hide.  Do it right when you come back so you can rest assured that you won’t have a hitchhiker staying around.

A Lyme disease diagnosis can only be confirmed by a blood test, but positive symptoms may also be indication that the bacteria is active.  These symptoms include many “flu-like” symptoms such as fatigue, chills, headache, and swollen lymph nodes, but also include the presence of the “bull’s eye” rash—a large, circular rash appearing close to where the tick latched on.  Should you experience any of these symptoms after spending time outdoors, please consult your healthcare professional right away.

Lyme disease is no fun, but with knowledge on your side, you can avoid it this summer.  Just be proactive, and there isn’t much to worry about.

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