If you live in or plan on visiting northeastern states from Virginia to Maine, north-central states like Wisconsin and Minnesota, or west coast states (especially Northern California), you need to be aware of the dangers of Lyme disease-carrying ticks.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that’s spread from animals like mice and deer to humans through the bite of the blacklegged tick. Although most people who are bitten do not contract Lyme disease, the symptoms can be very unpleasant and long-lasting if left untreated.
But there’s no need to hunker down indoors all summer; you can still enjoy the outdoors in the summer months by being aware of where blacklegged ticks are found, signs of their bites, and the symptoms of Lyme disease.
The Blacklegged Tick
The blacklegged tick is so small that people often don’t know that they’ve attached to their skin. It is for that reason that it’s very important to thoroughly inspect every area of your body – including your scalp – as well as your pets for the tiny, round black ticks. This should be done after walking through places where blacklegged ticks are most commonly found, like high grasses.
Blacklegged Tick Bites
Since the ticks themselves are easy to miss, keep an eye out for the signs that you or your pet have been bitten. Sometimes a bull’s eye patterned rash develops around the site of the bite, but there is not always a visible sign. Often, the only indication that you’ve been bit by a Lyme disease-carrying tick are the symptoms of the disease itself.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
The early signs of Lyme disease are:
- Itching all over the body
- Muscle pain
- Stiff neck
- General feeling of illness
The early symptoms may come and go and, if left untreated, can turn into:
- Paralysis or weakness in the facial muscles
- Pain or swelling in the joints
- Heart problems, such as palpitations (skipped heartbeats)
Months or years after the initial infection, the pain and swelling can become:
- Abnormal muscle movement
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness and tingling
- Speech problems
If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause long-term joint inflammation (Lyme arthritis), heart rhythm problems, and brain and nervous system problems. Lyme disease can either be diagnosed based on the symptoms experienced, or though a blood test.
Luckily, Lyme disease is treatable, though it could be a long road to feeling completely back to normal.
Be sure to avoid areas of tall grass or dead leaves, walk in the middle of trails, and check yourself and your pets regularly during and after walks through nature. Also, be sure to use insect repellant to further decrease your chances of being bitten by a tick.
If you believe you may have contracted Lyme disease, see your primary physician immediately. To find the right doctor for you, use the Vitals Doctor Finder.