How To Prevent Lyme Disease
The result of the bite of an infected tick, Lyme disease can lead to several serious complications. A tick may be infected with one of four bacteria, including borrelia afzelii, borrelia mayonii, borrelia burgdorferi and borrelia garinii. These bacteria are the cause of Lyme disease. Ticks usually pick up these bacteria from mice, rats, foxes and deer. Lyme disease is usually spread by the black-legged tick or deer tick.
The major sources of ticks carrying Lyme disease are grassy meadows and lawns. These places serve as the breeding ground for ticks especially large bushes and overgrown grass. It is common to get bitten by ticks while sitting or lying on the grass or passing through bushes where they wait for new hosts to pass by.
Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
There are several symptoms of Lyme disease and they usually start presenting around a month after the bite. As the symptoms can take time to develop completely, it is important to not ignore the common rash you notice after spending time out in the open.
The rash is a major symptom and is usually the first symptom to present anytime between 3 days and 3 months of the tick bite, but remember that most appear within a month though. At first, it appears as an expanded red area with a clear center resembling the bull’s eye on a target and can grow up to 12 inches in diameter in just a few days. These rashes are painless and there is no itching. This is the reason they often get noticed quite late. What makes it unusual is its enormous size and that it feels warm when you touch it.
The other major symptom of Lyme disease is a spreading erythema migrans where the rash not only appears at the tick bite but it also migrates to other body areas. Understand that erythema migrans does not show a reaction to the tick bite, but it actually suggests that you’ve already developed Lyme disease.
Some other symptoms of Lyme disease include fever and chills. The infected person may also experience joint and muscular aches and pain, headache, a stiff neck and general fatigue. Swollen lymph nodes are also an indication. If treatment is delayed more serious symptoms can develop; painful swollen joints, nerve problems producing numbness, heart problems and memory loss and poor concentration.
Some neurological problems can occur due to the Lyme disease infection. These symptoms do not appear in the initial phase of the disease and sometimes don’t appear until years after the initial infection. Some common neurological problems due to Lyme disease include meningitis, Bell’s palsy, limb weakness and impaired muscle movement.
Risks Of Lyme Disease
There are environmental factors that can increase the likelihood of contracting Lyme disease. For instance:
- There are higher chances of contracting Lyme disease if you spend a lot of time outdoors either for recreational purposes or for professional reasons.
- Risks are increased if you visit areas already infected without being aware and taking precautions.
- You are at risk of developing Lyme disease if you spend more time in the woods or meadows.
- If you are in an area of tick infestation with uncovered arms, feet or head you may become the victim of an infected tick bite.
- If you do not shower after being in an area of infestation. The chances of infection increase the longer the tick stays attached.
Protection Against Lyme Disease
To avoid dealing with all the hassle, it is important to take preventive measures when going outside. There are various ways of protecting yourself from Lyme disease. For instance:
1. Keep Your Home Protected
Lyme disease infection occurs when a tick passes bacteria in its saliva into the host via biting.
- To make garden a tick-free zone keep your lawn well-manicured. A well-maintained lawn is not the natural habitat of ticks since short grass prevents them from reaching the host. If you are in a tick prone area separate taller grasses and bushes from your lawn. You can create a tick barrier with the help of wood chips or bark several feet in width.
- Mice are one of the main hosts for ticks seeking a meal so it is another sensible reason to keep your house and garden free from mice. Remove any stone or wood piles or anything else that provides cover for a mouse and ensure all animal feed is stored securely.
- Deer are also hosts for ticks so it is recommended to keep them away from your tick-free lawn by installing a fence. An eight-foot fence is enough to stop dear accessing your property.
2. Be Careful While Outdoors
You are most at risk from tick bites and Lyme disease when you are outdoors, especially around bushes and on animal trails.
Whenever you go out on hiking trails, it’s important to know how to prevent Lyme disease. Always stay on marked trails and in the middle of the path. Along the edges, there are usually bushes and tall grasses which are the breeding grounds of the tick. Ticks do not jump so the grasses provide the height they need to reach any suitable hosts passing.
3. Protective Clothing
One of the best ways to stay protected from Lyme disease is to use protective clothing and keep your body fully covered.
The ideal for hiking are light-weight clothes including long pants and full sleeve shirts. They cover your body completely and are an effective barrier against bites. Socks and closed hiking shoes are also essential to keep your feet protected as is a hat.
If you are someone who likes to go barefoot in grassy meadows, reconsider. A warm foot is a good place to find a warmblood meal.
4. Use Insect Repellent
It’s good practice to apply insect repellent to all uncovered parts of your body before going outdoors. You can protect all your family including the children but use a child friendly repellent on infants and toddlers. It is best to consult a pharmacist to be sure the repellent is suitable for preventing tick bites on children.
Several things must be considered while choosing a suitable insect repellent. Ticks have a complicated four stage life cycle, egg, larval, nymph and tick. You’ll need protection against the tick at all the stages bar the egg. Although adult males don’t bite, the adult females, larvae and nymphs do and need a blood feed after emerging from the egg or molt.
The next important factor is the duration of protection. The duration of protection usually varies largely on your physical activity, water exposure, temperature and amount of sweating. Check the label for the duration of protection in different scenarios and different age groups. Choose the one that best suits your age and environmental exposure.
Another important factor are the ingredients. Some insect repellent contains strong chemicals so you may want to try gentler options. Always use a registered product either way. Although using few harsh chemicals may mean a slight compromise on protection, both have to be clinically proven to be effective and safe.
5. Tick Check
When you return from an area of possible tick infestation always perform a tick check. Remember to include your dog or horse in the check. Ticks have the ability to bite without causing pain and their presence remains undetected as they feed. They tend to attach on the warmer areas of the body, under the arms or on the groin and even on the scalp. Shower after you return home and carefully inspect your body for ticks. Remember the longer the tick stays attached the longer bacteria has to travel from the tick’s saliva into your bloodstream to increase your chances of becoming infected with Lyme disease.
Ticks are inspected in two ways:
- The physical examination of all body parts but especially the navel, groin, buttocks, underarms, behind the knees and your scalp.
- A visual inspection must be carried carefully looking for rice sized small nymphs that look like small adults or poppy seed sized larvae.
During the season, it is essential to inspect your body and those of your pets daily for ticks.
It all boils down to the fact that in case of Lyme disease, it is important to take preventive measures to avoid any complications. Protect yourself when you’re in wooded, busy areas. If you’re in an area with long grass, chances are you are likely to find deer ticks there. But, sometimes, you just cannot use enough protection, and that is when you need to seek medical attention. Treatment may involve administration of oral and intravenous antibiotics, but you may still have some symptoms after you complete the course. Therefore, staying safe in the first place is the way to go!