Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness is most common in the months of May through August when deer ticks are most active, and each year more and more cases of Lyme disease are reported.
Between 1995 and 2009, the number of Americans diagnosed with Lyme disease nearly tripled, from more than 10,000 to almost 40,000 cases. 95 percent of these cases occurred in 12 Northern states: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Maryland, Virginia, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Maine, and Delaware.
If you spend a lot of time outdoors, especially in grassy or heavily-wooded areas, you are more at risk of contracting Lyme disease and should take special precautions to avoid the disease, including:
• Avoid thickly-wooded areas and high grass; stick to the center of hiking trails.
• Apply bug repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET before going into any areas which are prone to ticks. Repellents that contain permethrin can be applied to clothing.
• Once you’re back indoors, check your entire body for ticks.
• If you find a tick on your skin, use tweezers to lift it off. Hold the tweezers steady. Twisting or jerking the tweezers could break off parts of the tick and leave some parts behind in your skin.
• Clean the affected skin with rubbing alcohol or soap and water after removing the critter.
• Don’t forget to check your pet for ticks! Animals run a high risk of being infected since they typically spend a lot of time outside and fur serves as a good hiding places for bugs.
If you do become infected with Lyme disease, common symptoms include:
• Rash: A small, red bump may develop at the site of the tick bite. Within days, the redness of the rash will expand and often form a bull’s-eye pattern. This rash, called erythema migrans, is a hallmark of Lyme disease.
• Flu-like symptoms: Many people with Lyme disease experience fever, chills, body aches, and a headache along with a rash.
• Migratory joint pain: If Lyme disease goes untreated, you may develop periods of severe joint pain and swelling several weeks after being infected. The pain can shift from one area of the body to another, but the knees are the most commonly affected body part.
• Neurological problems: In some cases, inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain (meningitis), temporary paralysis on one side of the face (Bell’s palsy), numbness or weakness in the limbs, and impaired muscle movement have occurred weeks, months, or even years after an undiagnosed tick bite.
• Les common signs and symptoms of Lyme disease include irregular heartbeat, eye inflammation, hepatitis, and severe fatigue.
If you notice these symptoms, see a doctor immediately. In most cases, when Lyme disease is caught early it can be totally cured by antibiotics. If left untreated, the disease can lead to joint problems, neurological impairments, cognitive defects, and heart rhythm irregularities.
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