Summertime often comes with a vacation or two. And if you’re like some, you might enjoy getting away from it all and camping in the woods for a few days.
Getting lost in nature has tremendous health benefits (1), but it also carries the risk for harm. Polluted waters, venomous snakes, and annoying ticks can be found in abundance in certain parts of the country.
Depending on where you trek, the ticks in your area might be carrying a bacteria that can make you really sick. More and more people are being diagnosed with Lyme disease (3), so it’s important to know the risks.
In this article we’re covering what Lyme disease is, along with symptoms, treatment, and prevention tips.
What is Lyme Disease?
Some diseases are brought on by chronic inflammation and stress, but others can occur through acute exposure to certain viruses, bacteria, fungi, or parasites.
Lyme disease actually comes from four species (2) of bacteria:
- Borrelia burgdorferi
- Borrelia mayonii
- Borrelia afzelii
- Borrelia garinii
The first two species are the culprits for many of the Lyme disease cases within the United States, while the last two species cause Lyme disease across areas of Asia and Europe.
These bacteria can be found in disease-bearing ticks, moistly deer ticks. Ticks live in fields with tall grasses or the woods. When one attaches and begins feeding, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease can enter your bloodstream.
Note: Not all ticks carry Lyme disease. But because it’s impossible to tell which ones do and which ones don’t, always practice caution when staying in tick-infested areas.
3 Stages of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease tends to unfold in 3 stages, with the next being more severe than the previous one (4).
- Stage 1 Early Localization Stage: This stage lasts 1-30 days, and when a skin rash will typically appear at the site the tick attached. Other symptoms like fever and chills may appear.
- Stage 2 Early Disease: Between 3-10 weeks after initial exposure, other symptoms like blurred vision difficulty breathing, heart inflammation, and nervous system issues may begin.
- Stage 3 Late Disease: This stage can show up months to years after initial exposure. Some manifestations include bluish-red skin discoloration on the back of the hands, Lyme arthritis, hearing loss, spinal disc diseases, and nerve abnormalities.
Getting tested early can help reduce the severity of symptoms further down the line.
Ticks can take between a few hours to a few days to finish feeding from its host. When it’s done, it falls off.
Those that carry Lyme disease will transmit the bacteria into your bloodstream, leading to symptoms such as:
- Skin rash, in the shape of a “bulls-eye”
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Body aches
Symptoms may not appear for a few weeks after exposure. If left untreated, the disease can spread to other parts of your body, leading to:
- Muscle weakness
- Bell’s Palsy
- Irregular heartbeat
- Inflammation of the eye
Can Pets Get Lyme disease? They sure can. Pets like dogs, cats, even horses have been known to contract Lyme disease (7). Many veterinary clinic offer tick-borne blood tests that offer peace of mind whenever there is concern.
If you’ve been diagnosed with Lyme disease, your treatment options may differ depending on the physician.
There are two major medical societies (5) that hold conflicting views on how Lyme disease affects the body, which influences how they think it should be treated.
The Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) believes Lyme can be easily treated with a round of antibiotics, and that once the disease is gone it doesn’t linger in the body.
Meanwhile, the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS) see Lyme as a complex issue that can have lasting effects on the body.
Depending on your physician’s viewpoint, a treatment plan can be determined together. Other factors that will influence treatment include your age, the stage of the disease, how severe symptoms are, and whether there are any co-infections present. Be sure to consult your medical professional right away if you are having symptoms of Lyme Disease.
While only the minority of ticks carry Lyme disease, taking precautions can keep other tick-borne illnesses like Colorado tick fever and babesiosis away.
Some of the best ways you can prevent (6) Lyme disease are to:
- Cover up: Wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants when in wooded areas or grassy fields can keep ticks from landing on your skin. Socks and hats help, too.
- Remove ticks right away: If a tick happens to land and attach to you, remove them safely with a pair of tweezers. Don’t squeeze the tick. Instead, place the tweezers as close to the attachment site as possible, and gently remove the tick. Place in a sealable bag with alcohol, or flush down the toilet.
- Check often: Even though it takes 36-48 hours for Lyme disease to be transmitted, the sooner you can spot and remove tick, the better.
- Use repellents: Commercial insect repellents use ingredients that promise to rid you of flying, crawling, and biting insects. But many of the ingredients can be toxic to you and the environment, which is why people are turning to more natural options.
- Get checked anyway: If you’ve been treated for Lyme disease in the past, don’t assume you can’t get it again. Make an appointment with your doctor anyway to make sure.
Lyme disease is growing worldwide, and much of it has to do with getting checked out after exposure to infected ticks.
This bacterial disease can be transmitted from a bite, and can cause symptoms like chills, joint pain, and inflammation. Caught early, it’s usually treated with antibiotics. If it’s not diagnosed until later, a variety of treatments is often needed to get it under control.
Summer fun is not without its mishaps. Staying safe while on vacation, hiking, or simply getting out in nature is always your best bet. That’s why prevention is key. Making sure you check yourself often, wearing protective clothing, and bringing along insect repellents can all help keep you and your loved ones healthy and happy.
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References & Disclaimers
✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author