Summer is right around the corner, and we aren’t the only ones ready to get out into the nice weather. Ticks become active again and get ready to pounce on unsuspecting victims. More than just an irritation, ticks can carry illnesses, including Lyme disease.
Over the last few years, Lyme disease has affected more and more people. This year is not expected to be any different. Minnesota is especially infested by ticks because we have a great climate and environment for them and our recent winters have been mild.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is an infection spread by ticks. You can get Lyme disease if you are bitten by an infected tick. But most people who have had a tick bite don't get Lyme disease. It's still important to seek medical advice if you have a tick attached to you that you can't remove.
What causes Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria. Infected ticks spread the bacteria by biting people or animals.
Two types of ticks carry the Lyme disease bacteria in the United States:
- Deer ticks. They spread the disease in the Northeast and Midwest.
- Western black-legged ticks. They spread the disease along the Pacific coast, mostly in northern California and Oregon.
How can it be prevented?
The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to protect yourself from ticks. Cover up as much skin as you can when you're going to be in wooded or grassy areas. Wear a hat, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants with the legs tucked into your socks. And keep in mind that it's easier to see ticks on light-colored clothes.
Use a bug repellent that has a chemical (such as DEET, IR3535, or Picaridin) to keep away ticks. Check your pets for ticks after they've been outside. You can't get Lyme disease from your pet. But your pet can bring infected ticks inside. These ticks can fall off your pet and attach to you.
Check your clothing and outdoor gear after you have been outside. Remove any ticks you find. Then put your clothing in a clothes dryer on high heat for one hour to kill any ticks that might remain.
What should I do if I get bit by a tick?
Remove ticks as soon as you notice them. Infected ticks usually don't spread Lyme disease until they have been attached for at least 36 hours. Then watch for symptoms of Lyme disease for the next month.
What are the symptoms?
One sign of Lyme disease is a round, red rash that spreads at the site of a tick bite. This rash can get very large.
Flu-like symptoms are also common. People in the early stages of Lyme disease may feel very tired and have headaches, sore muscles and joints, and a fever.
These symptoms can start at any time, from three days to up to a month after you have been bitten. Some people don't have any symptoms when they are in the early stages of Lyme disease. And they may not even remember getting a tick bite.
If Lyme disease goes untreated, you can have more serious symptoms over time. These include:
- Swelling and joint pain (like arthritis).
- Tingling and numbness in your hands, feet, and back.
- A lack of energy that does not get better.
- Trouble focusing your thoughts.
- Poor memory.
- Weakness or paralysis in your face muscles.
How is it treated?
The main treatment for Lyme disease is antibiotics. These medicines usually cure Lyme disease within 3 weeks of starting treatment.
virtuwell.com, our 24/7 online convenience care clinic, is a useful and cost-effective method for treatment. It can be accessed any time, day or night.
“People are usually bitten by ticks when they’re outdoors or traveling, which is when access to a clinic for diagnosis and treatment of a suspected tick bite is limited,” says Gwen Verchota, APN, chief nurse practitioner with Virtuwell. “That makes virtuwell.com the ideal solution for people who need on-the-go care that doesn’t interfere with activities and vacation plans, or require a trip to a clinic. In about an hour, Virtuwell can effectively diagnose and safely treat tick bites and Lyme disease.”
It's important to get treatment for Lyme disease as soon as you can. If left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to problems with your skin, joints, nervous system, and heart. These can occur weeks, months, or even years after your tick bite. The problems often get better with antibiotics, but in rare cases they can last the rest of your life.
If you have the symptoms of Lyme disease or have been recently bitten by a tick, you can get care at: