It’s no secret that Western North Carolina is a fantastic spot to enjoy the great outdoors.
Previous Sona blogs have covered a handful of concerns related to Asheville’s natural splendor, but how much do you know about Lyme disease?
Lyme disease affects nearly 30,000 people in the United States each year. To put that number in perspective, “that’s 1.5 times the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer, and six times the number of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS each year in the US”.
What is Lyme disease and how is it spread?
Lyme disease is an infectious condition caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. This pathogen is spread to humans by the bites of deer ticks.
Deer ticks are primarily found in wooded, grassy terrains throughout the Unites States. When animals or humans brush against the ticks, they latch on. The bite is often painless, so individuals usually are not aware the tick is on their body. Typically, the tick needs to be attached for 3-4 days before it can transmit Lyme disease bacteria.
What to do if you are bitten by a tick?
If you are bitten by a tick, remove and retain the tick and visit your healthcare provider promptly. By being proactive, individuals can often prevent the symptoms and effects of Lyme disease.
If your doctor believes you are infected with Lyme disease, they will most likely prescribe doxycycline. Doxycycline is generally the first-line of defense for adults against the disease and should be used unless the patient has an allergy.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
Lyme disease can produce a variety of symptoms including fever, chills, headache and fatigue.
The most common symptom, however, is a rash known as erythema migrans. This rash will typically be seen within one week of the tick bite, and can grow larger to resemble a bull’s-eye pattern. If left untreated, Lyme disease can produce symptoms that affect the joints, heart, and nervous system.
How is Lyme disease treated?
If diagnosed with Lyme disease, you will need to be treated with antibiotics.
Generally, patients who are treated in the early stages of the disease will recover rapidly and completely. Most patients will respond well to antibiotics, but occasionally patients may require additional courses of antibiotic therapy.
How can Lyme disease be prevented?
The most important tip to prevent Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites. Some strategies are:
1. Avoiding tick-infested areas. This is especially important during warm months (April – September). The risk of tick bites is greatly increased in the woods or brushy areas.
2. Insect repellent. Look for spray repellents with at least 20% DEET. This should be sprayed on all exposed skin and clothing. You can also treat clothes with permethrin, which will kill ticks; however, permethrin should not be used on your skin.
3. Check for tick bites after possible exposure. A good tip is to bathe after being outdoors. This is a great opportunity to check your body for any ticks that may have bitten you.
4. Proper removal of tick bites. Using tweezers, grasp the tick’s body as close to the skin as possible. Pull the tick’s body away from the skin without crushing the tick’s body. Note that the tick’s mouthparts may still remain in your skin, but this is no cause for worry. After the tick is removed, clean the area with an antiseptic.
If you have any questions about Lyme disease, or would like to learn more, please stop by Sona and speak with a pharmacist today.