Here are some tips to keep your family safe while still enjoying the outdoors.
Warm weather is invitation to hike, picnic and enjoy the outdoors.While these activities have many benefits, it's important to take a few precautions to protect against some risks--especially the risk of Lyme Disease, which is transmitted to humans through the bite of ticks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are predicting a rise in the number of Lyme disease cases in the Northeast, South, and on the West Coast.
Lyme disease is fairly common but often misdiagnosed – over 300,000 cases are reported each year but there are undoubtedly more suffering with the illness that just haven’t sought treatment. Here are a few things you need to know about the disease and how to protect yourself this summer.
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is spread to people via infected blacklegged ticks. While the adult ticks can transmit the disease, they are large enough that they can be seen more easily and removed. Young ticks, those in the earlier stage of the life cycle called nymphs, are very tiny and can be harder to detect. The infected nymphs are about the size of a poppy seed and are loaded with pathogens that make you sick. Because they’re so small, they’re often hard to spot and the longer they stay on your skin, the greater the chance of contracting the disease.
How To Protect Yourself
The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to be aware of your surroundings and take precautionary measures anytime you venture outdoors. In some areas, there are signs posted warning that ticks are present. Stay away from tall grass and wooded areas – if you’re hiking, stick to the trails. Wear bug spray, preferably one with 20% or more DEET. Make sure to shower or rinse off whenever you get back inside and regularly check your skin for signs of rashes and bug bites. Another good rule of thumb: pay attention to your pets. Dogs get screened for ticks much more regularly than humans do, so if your dog ends up having a tick or two, he could've brought more into your home and it might be time for a check up.
What To Watch Out For
If diagnosed early, Lyme Disease can usually be treated successfully with antibiotics. However, it can be difficult to diagnose.
Many cases first show a “bull’s eye” rash at the infection site. Fever, chills, sweats, fatigue, and headaches that come on suddenly are also cause for concern.
The symptoms for Lyme Disease change over time. Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a more complete list of Lyme Disease symptoms.
The Effects Of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is often misunderstood because when untreated it can and does disturb so many organs in the body. Lyme is often called “The Great Imitator,” because its symptoms mimic many other diseases. People suffering with Lyme disease are often misdiagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and various psychiatric illnesses, including depression. Check the CDC website for more complete information, including tips on prevention, diagnosis and treatment.