Lyme Disease From Ticks

What is lyme disease from ticks?

Lyme disease from ticks is a bacterial infection transmitted by deer ticks. The disease can be transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. If left untreated, the disease can cause various health problems. However, if diagnosed early and given antibiotics, Lyme disease from ticks, can be quickly and completely cured.

Where is lyme disease found?

In the United States, infected deer ticks can be found in the Northeast, including New York State; in the upper Midwestern states and along the Northwest coast.

What are the symptoms of lyme disease?

The initial symptoms of Lyme disease from ticks can be mild and are often ignored. If you feel a tick is attached to your skin, remove the tick with tweezers and watch for symptoms of Lyme disease. In 60 to 80 percent of cases, the first symptom is a skin rash known as erythema migrans that:

  • It occurs at or near the site of the tick bite.
  • It is a solid red “bull’s-eye” rash that gets bigger.
  • It appears within the first three days to a month after the tick bite.
  • It has a diameter of 2 to 6 inches.
  • It lasts from 3 to 5 weeks.
  • When you touch it, it may or may not be hot.
  • Normally, it does not cause pain or itching.
  • Multiple rashes may appear.

Ticks attach anywhere, but prefer body folds, including the armpits, groin, back of the knee, and the back of the neck. If you have been infected, the rash will most likely appear in one of these areas.

When the rash appears, other symptoms such as joint pain, chills, fever, and tiredness may also appear, but these may be too mild to seek medical attention.

As Lyme disease progresses, it can cause severe tiredness, a stiff and painful neck, tingling or numbness in the arms and legs, or facial paralysis.

The most serious symptoms of Lyme disease from ticks do not appear for weeks, months, or years after the tick bite. These symptoms may include severe headaches, painful arthritis and joint swelling, and heart and central nervous system problems.

How is lyme disease diagnosed?

If you think you have Lyme disease from ticks, you should see your health care provider right away. Early diagnosis of Lyme disease can only be made based on symptoms and history of possible tick exposure. Blood tests done during the first month after the tick bite give false results.

How is lyme disease treated?

Early treatment of Lyme disease includes antibiotics and almost always results in a complete cure. However, if treatment is delayed, the chance of a complete cure is diminished.

In a small number of cases, Lyme disease can become a chronic disease. However, some patients have reported slight improvement and even disappearance of symptoms months or even years after treatment.

How can I protect myself against ticks and prevent Lyme disease?

Deer ticks live in dark, moist areas at ground level. They stick to tall grasses, weeds, and shrubs, but usually no more than 18 to 24 inches from the ground. Ticks also live in lawns and gardens, particularly at forest edges and around old stone walls.

Deer ticks cannot jump or fly, and cannot land on people or animals. They only attach themselves to humans and animals by direct contact. Once the tick is attached to the skin, it usually climbs until it reaches a protected area.

In tick-infested areas, your best protection is to avoid contact with soil, leaf debris, and vegetation. However, if you garden, hike, camp, hunt, work, or spend time outdoors, you can protect yourself in the following ways:

  • Wear light -colored clothing with a tight weave so you can easily see ticks.
  • Wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirt and closed shoes. Tuck the end of the pants inside the socks or boots, and the shirt inside the pants.
  • Frequently checking clothing and bare skin for ticks while outdoors.
  • Considering the use of insect repellent.
  • Staying on clear and marked paths. Avoiding contact with vegetation.
  • Avoid sitting directly on the ground or stone walls.
  • Tying long hair back, particularly when gardening.
  • Look closely at the whole body at the end of the day for ticks (also look at children and pets), and remove them as soon as possible.

What do ticks look like?

The two most common types of ticks are dog ticks and deer ticks. Deer ticks can carry Lyme disease. Dog ticks can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. To the best of our knowledge, dog ticks have never transmitted Lyme disease.

Lyme Disease From Ticks
Lyme Disease From Ticks

Female deer tick

Female deer ticks have 4 pairs of legs and are red and black in color, while male deer ticks are black in color. Young deer ticks are light brown and about the size of poppy seeds and are very difficult to detect. Adult deer ticks are only about the size of a sesame seed—still very small.

Lyme Disease From Ticks
Lyme Disease From Ticks

Dog ticks, male and female

Dog ticks are the most common type of tick, and can be as large as a small pea when feeding. These types of ticks have 4 pairs of legs, are reddish-brown in color, and are easier to spot. Most dog ticks turn gray while feeding. Ticks can be found year-round, but are most active in the spring, early summer, and fall when the weather is warm and humid.

And about insect repellents?

Two active ingredients found in repellants are DEET (the label may say N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) and permethrin. Permethrin is only used in clothing. DEET-containing repellents can come in different concentrations, with percentages as low as 5 percent or as high as 100 percent. In general, the higher the concentration, the greater the protection, but the risk of negative health effects also increases. Use the lowest concentration that you think will give you the protection you need. The New York State Department of Health recommends that the following precautions be taken when using repellents containing DEET:

  • Before applying them, store them out of the reach of children and read all the instructions on the label.
  • Don’t let children apply repellent to themselves.
  • DO NOT apply repellent directly to children. Put it in your hands and then apply it to the child.
  • When applying repellant, avoid children’s faces and hands.
  • DO NOT apply repellent to skin injured by sunburn, cuts, abrasions, or other conditions such as Psoriasis.
  • Avoid prolonged and excessive use of DEET.
  • DO NOT apply repellants in closed areas.
  • DO NOT apply directly to face.
  • DO NOT apply near the eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Upon return to covered areas, wash treated skin and clothing.
  • If you think you or a child has an adverse reaction to a DEET-containing repellant, wash the treated area immediately and contact your local health care provider or local poison control center.

Also consider these important facts:

  • If you put pants inside your socks and shirts inside your pants, keep in mind that ticks will climb into hidden areas of your head and neck, so check your clothing often.
  • Clothes should be sprayed with DEET or permethrin. Follow label directions carefully.
  • Upon returning home, clothes should be put in the dryer on high heat for 20 minutes to kill any unseen ticks. Taking a shower and shampooing your hair may help dislodge any crawling ticks, but this isn’t always effective.
  • Any contact with vegetation, even playing in the yard, can expose you to ticks. Frequent checks for the presence of ticks should be followed by a full body examination and removal of any ticks found each night. This is the single most effective method of Lyme disease prevention.

How can you safely remove a tick?

If you FIND a tick attached to your skin, don’t be alarmed. Not all ticks are infected, and your risk of Lyme disease is greatly reduced if the tick is removed within the first 36 hours.

To remove the tick:

  • Use pointed tweezers to grasp the tick by its head or mouth cavity where it enters the skin. DO NOT pick up the tick by the body.
  • Without jerking it, pull firmly and steadily outward. DO NOT twist the tick.
  • To kill it, put the tick in a small container of rubbing alcohol.
  • Clean the bite wound with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.
  • Observe the bite site for a rash for the next 30 days. If you develop a rash or flu-like symptoms, contact your health care provider immediately.

What else can be done?

  • Keep grass mowed and edges trimmed.
  • Clear weeds, leaf debris, and tall grass around house and yard edges and on stone walls.
  • Place the piles of wood in order away from the house and preferably so that they do not touch the ground.
  • In the fall, put all leaf debris (including perennial debris) out of the garden.
  • Keep the ground under bird feeders clean to prevent them from attracting small animals.
  • Place the swing set and other play equipment in a sunny, dry area of the garden, away from wooded areas.

Dr. Ashwani Kumar is highly skilled and experienced in treating major and minor general medicine diseases.