May Is Lyme Disease Awareness Month
If you’re brave enough to withstand the sweltering heat, summer in Florida is the perfect time for outdoor activities. From camping in scenic parks to exploring nature trails, Florida offers so many chances for adventures. But along with issues like mosquito-transmitted Zika and painful sunburns, tick bites and Lyme disease can be an unfortunate side effect of enjoying the outdoors.
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease, formally known as Lyme borreliosis, is an infectious disease that spreads from ticks to humans. There are four types of bacteria that cause Lyme disease, and they are all transmitted by the same kind of tick, the black-legged or deer tick. The disease is particularly prevalent in the southern United States, as well as in the Midwest.
When a deer tick bites a human, it can stay attached to their skin for hours or even days. If it stays attached for longer than 36 hours, an infected tick has a high chance of spreading Lyme disease to the person it bites, because the disease works its way into the bloodstream. The initial symptoms of a tick bite include a small red bump at the site of the bite. This is normal after a tick bite, and doesn’t necessarily signify Lyme disease. If the disease progresses further into the bloodstream, however, more severe symptoms might include:
- Joint pain
- Limb weakness or numbness
- Temporary paralysis in the face, called Bell’s Palsy
- Nausea and vomiting
- Irregular heartbeat
- Eye inflammation
Treatment and Prevention
If Lyme disease is not properly treated, it can become chronic and lead to long-term health conditions. Thankfully, if the disease is caught in the early stages, it can be treated with antibiotics, and people usually fully recover. Though there were 28,453 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the United States in 2015 (with 116 cases in Florida) only about 40% of people with the disease end up with long-term health problems.
If you are going to be outdoors, particularly in a wooded area, take precautions against ticks. Cover as much skin as possible, by wearing long pants, long sleeves, or a hat. Insect repellent will protect against ticks as well as other pesky creatures, so make sure you spray and reapply when necessary. After a day out, check yourself for ticks — and remember to check your pets, too, since they can easily become carriers of ticks! If you discover a tick, carefully remove it with a pair of tweezers and apply antiseptic to the bite site. Remember, ticks are incredibly small, so you will need to look very carefully!
Happy hiking, exploring, and adventuring!
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