Lyme disease is an bacterial infection caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, which is carried by deer ticks. In most cases, tick bites are harmless. However, if bitten by an infected tick the bacteria may then enter the body through your blood stream. Typically, a tick will have been attached for up to 36 hours to transmit Lyme disease. Lyme can affect any organ of the body, and often produces flu-like symptoms. Lyme disease is not considered contagious between people, and according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), expecting mothers cannot pass the disease onto their unborn child.
Symptoms of Lyme can present differently based on the stage or progression of the disease. Symptoms that may develop within 3-30 days of bite include:
Symptoms that may develop days to months after infection:
The most efficient way to prevent Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites. Deer ticks remain active during all seasons, so it is best to protect yourself from ticks anytime you are spending time outdoors. Follow these tips to limit exposure to tick bites:
If suspected, Lyme can be treated within the first stages with a 10-14 day course of antibiotics. In these cases, those infected with Lyme may recover fully and within a short period of time, however, it is important to be treated in the early stages. If left untreated, Lyme disease may spread to parts of the body including the joints, and can cause complications involving the heart, and nervous system. Those who have been treated, but are still experiencing symptoms may be in the post-treatment phase of Lyme, and will require additional treatment for management of symptoms. In these cases, treatment is usually geared toward relieving pain and discomfort.
If the tick is swollen, or has been on the skin for more than 36 hours, save it in a sealed bag in the freezer to be identified by your provider if necessary. After removing the tick, wash the surrounding area with soap and warm water. Inspect the area carefully to make sure no mouth parts are left behind. After washing, apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to the bite. Only one application of the cream is necessary. Keep an eye on the bite for the next 4 weeks. If a rash begins to develop, or you aren’t able to completely remove the tick, visit your provider.
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