Worried About Lyme Disease? How To Protect Yourself

by Mary Sauer

We're smack dab in the middle of the most active season for ticks, the carriers and transmitters of the bacterial infection called Lyme disease. Lyme disease affects an estimated 300,000 people in the United States each year, including outspoken celebrities like Avril Lavigne and Alec Baldwin. 

decades-long study released last week found there's no perfect way to protect yourself against tick-borne diseases (such as with a vaccine), there are preventative measures you can take. Here's what you need to know:

What Is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection primarily transmitted by Ixodes scapularis, also known as deer ticks or black-legged ticks. Lyme disease causes a rash, often in a bull's-eye pattern, flu-like symptoms, joint pain, and sometimes weakness in the limbs.

Also on Z Living: How Popstar Avril Lavigne Battled Lyme Disease​

Lyme disease is now the most commonly diagnosed tick-borne illness in the United States, making education and awareness an important part of avoiding the disease. 

Z Living spoke with board certified infectious disease physician, Dr. Amesh Adalja of the University of Pittsburgh about the steps individuals can take to prevent contracting lyme disease.

Are You At Risk?

“Populations who reside in areas in which deer ticks are highly prevalent are at the highest risk of exposure,” says Adalja. 

Those areas include much of the Midwest, the South, and all of the Northeast regions of the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

If you are among the portion of the population who are most at risk for coming into contact with deer ticks, regular precautions should be taken to avoid exposure, especially when spending time in wooded areas. 

Dress To Avoid Ticks

“Wear clothing that limits exposed body surfaces that ticks can attach to,” says Dr. Adalja. “Wear insect repellent, regularly inspect your body for ticks, and remove any ticks found attached.”

How To Remove A Tick

To make a tick to detach by itself, the CDC advises against DIY methods, and suggests using tweezers to safely remove any ticks found on your body. Using tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the surface of your skin as possible and pull straight up. After removal, clean the surface of your skin with alcohol or soap and water. Dispose of the tick, either trapping it in a container or ziploc, drowning it in alcohol or flushing it down the toilet.  

When removing ticks, keep an eye out for any attached ticks and surrounding skin that has a bullseye rash, according to Adalja. Anytime you believe you may have been bitten by a Lyme disease-infected tick, watch carefully for early symptoms to arise. 

What To Do If You Suspect You're Infected With Lyme Disease

“Early symptoms may include mild feelings of malaise and a red lesion or rash on the skin that can develop a bullseye appearance,” says Adalja.Glands, or lymph nodes, can be swollen as well. If one has symptoms such as these, they should consult a healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment.”

Watching for these symptoms is crucial, since early diagnosis and treatment is so important for a quick recovery from the disease. Most often, after an early diagnosis, patients will be treated with antibiotics and recover quickly, according to the American College of Rheumatology. In patients who are unable to receive a quick diagnosis, antibiotics are still likely to effectively treat the disease, but there's more risk of long term or chronic symptoms.

Want to find out more on how to live a healthier life? Check these other articles from Z Living:  WATCH: Z Living's Change The Day You Die, where high-risk Individuals get health and lifestyle advice from experts that could add years to their lives. See a sneak preview here.

Tell us in the comments: What are your concerns regarding Lyme disease? 

Graphic Source: Nursing School Hub

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