When we think of summertime most of us think of vacations we’d like to go on, holiday cookouts, and swimming. We become proactive about the summertime health concerns: sunburn, allergies, and sports injuries. However, we should not overlook the risk of tickborne diseases and illnesses. It is important to be informed on what the diseases are, how to prevent them, and what treatments are available.
What is Lyme?
The most well known and common tickborne illness in the United States is Lyme disease. Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and rarely, Borrelia mayonii. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. The only way they can get onto a human is through direct contact. They do this by waiting at the edge of a blade of grass, tall reed or something similar and then latch on when something brushes against them. Depending on the area, anywhere from less than 1% to more than 50% of ticks carry Lyme disease, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. While Lyme disease can affect anyone at any age, it might be more common in children age 5 to 14 and adults age 45 to 64. The CDC reports an estimated total of about 400,000 cases of Lyme disease per year. Recently, they’ve revised that number to about 476,000.
Symptoms of Lyme:
- Characteristic bullseye skin rash called erythema migrans. (Many patients — as many as 80%, per the CDC — will develop a rash about three to 30 days after an infected tick bite.)
- If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.
Besides Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a bacterial disease spread through the bite of an infected tick. Most people who get sick with RMSF will have a fever, headache, and rash. RMSF can be deadly if not treated early with the right antibiotic. Additionally, the Hearland virus disease is a relatively new tick-borne illness, spread by the Lonestar Tick, that was discovered in the Midwestern and Southern United States. There are currently no medications to treat Hearland virus disease. Another condition, Alpha-gal syndrome (AGS) (also called alpha-gal allergy, red meat allergy, or tick bite meat allergy) is a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Growing evidence suggests that AGS may be triggered by the bite of a lone star tick in the United States, but other kinds of ticks have not been ruled out. Other tick species have been connected with the development of AGS in other countries.
Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks. Laboratory testing is helpful if used correctly and performed with validated methods. Some people, however, may develop lasting symptoms after a Lyme infection, including pain, fatigue, difficulty thinking, mental health issues and other symptoms that interfere with daily life. The CDC refers to illness that lasts longer than six months after treatment as Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome.
How do I prevent tick-borne illnesses?
The CDC recommends paying close attention to these places on your body after exposure to woody or grassy areas: under your arms, your ears, your belly button, between your legs, your hair, your waist and the back of your knees. You should also inspect your pets and gear, as ticks can make it into your home by climbing onto a pet, backpack or clothing, the CDC says.
Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick habitat apply the repellent every four to six hours, and find one that has a 30 to 35% concentration of DEET. The sprays with a lower concentration of DEET work You should apply your sunscreen before the repellent as well. Check out our bug repellent products here:
What should I do if I have an attached tick?
- Use fine tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible.
- Pull backwards gently but firmly, using an even, steady pressure. Do not jerk or twist.
- Do not squeeze, crush, or puncture the body of the tick, since its bodily fluids may contain infection-causing organisms.
- After removing the tick, wash the skin and hands thoroughly with soap and water.
- If any mouth parts of the tick remain in the skin, these should be left alone; they will be expelled on their own. Attempts to remove these parts may result in significant skin trauma
- Save your tick in a sealed plastic bag and store in the refrigerator or freezer.
Typically, ticks are submitted for testing by placing them in a sealed zip-lock bag and sending via overnight or priority carrier or UPS. Most of the companies ask that you send the tick in along with your name, address, phone number (with area code), and payment.
What is the treatment?
In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted. If caught early enough most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. Failing to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment on time can lead to lasting illness. Antibiotics work by rupturing the protective cell walls of harmful bacteria. Oral antibiotics are the standard treatment for early-stage Lyme disease. These usually include doxycycline for adults and children older than 8, or amoxicillin or cefuroxime for adults, younger children, and pregnant or breast-feeding women. A 14- to 21-day course of antibiotics is usually recommended, but some studies suggest that courses lasting 10 to 14 days are equally effective. Intravenous antibiotics are used if the disease involves the central nervous system, your doctor might recommend treatment with an intravenous antibiotic for 14 to 28 days. This is effective in eliminating infection, although it may take you some time to recover from your symptoms.
The last thing you want to do is overlook the risk of tickborne diseases and illnesses. Now that you are informed on what the diseases are, how to prevent them, and what treatments are available, you can safely enjoy your summertime activities. Legacy Medical Sales is available to help you select the right product to protect you and your family this summer, simply contact us at 1-800-446-7310.