Lyme Disease: What you need to know to keep you and your family safe

Lyme Disease: What you need to know to keep you and your family safe

May 29, 2013 Updated Oct 30, 2013 at 6:34 AM EDT

With countless Americans poised to embark on outdoor activities this summer, it's a good time for a refresher course on Lyme Disease, the tick-borne illness.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme Disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.

Ticks can attach to any part of the human body but are often found in hard-to-see areas such as the groin, armpits, and scalp. In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36-48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted.


What to do if you are bitten by a tick/tick removal

The CDC offers tick removal instructions:

1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible.
2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.

3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

Signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease

If you observe any of the following symptons following a tick bite, you should seek medical attention:

Red, expanding rash called erythema migrans (EM)


Fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes

Bell's palsy: Loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face

Arthrities: Pain and swelling in the large joints


Where does Lyme Disease occur? View the charts below to see what areas of the U.S. are most greatly affected and how many Lyme Disease cases are diagnosed each year

How to prevent tick bites

While it is a good idea to take preventive measures against ticks year-round, the CDC says to be extra vigilant in warmer months (April-September) when ticks are most active.

Avoid Direct Contact with Ticks

    Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.

    Walk in the center of trails.

Repel Ticks with DEET or Permethrin

    Use repellents that contain 20% or more DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) on the exposed skin for protection that lasts up to several hours. Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes, and mouth.

    Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and remains protective for up to 70 washings.

    Other repellents registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may be found at http://cfpub.epa.gov/oppref/insect/

Find and Remove Ticks from Your Body

    Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
    Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.

    Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs. Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.

One person's experience with Lyme Disease

 This video from the CDC illustrates one man's story.


For Lyme Disease frequently asked questions, click HERE.


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