Smart-Take: Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease is caused by being bit by infected ticks, most often in their nymphal or immature form. Nymphs are about the size of a poppy seed and, because their bite is painless, many people don’t realize that they have been bitten.
According to the CDC, the number of confirmed or suspected cases of Lyme has more than tripled since 1995, with most reported from 14—located primarily in the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and Upper Midwest. Contrary to popular belief, infection is not always marked by the Lyme “ring”, a circular rash-like pattern that shows up on the skin. Symptoms can vary in both children and adults. Here are some critical signs to watch for:

EARLY SYMPTOMS

• Flu-like illness (fever, chills, sweats, muscles aches, fatigue, nausea and joint pain)
• Rash: (Fewer than 10% have classic bullseye rash)
• Bell’s Palsy

LATER SYMPTOMS

• Headache, stiff neck
• Light or sound sensitivity
• Cognitive impairment
• Sleep disturbance
• Depression, anxiety, or mood swings
• Arthritis, tingling, burning or shooting pains
• Fatigue
• Abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea
• Chest pain, palpitations

The CDC, Mayo and the Lyme Disease Association all provide advice on two fronts: prevention and identification.

PROTECT YOURSELF FROM TICK BITES BY:

• Dress in light colored clothing that contrasts with the tick’s color and seal off vulnerable access points by tucking your shirt into your pants, and pants into your socks.
• Talk to your pharmacist about DEET protection on your skin and clothing.
• Always do a thorough tick-check after possible exposure—on yourself, clothing and bedding.

IF YOU ARE BITTEN:

• Use fine-pointed tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible
• Pull straight out with steady pressure, avoiding squeezing and ‘breaking’ it.
• Wash and disinfect your hands and the area around the bite.
• Package the tick in a small plastic bag with a moist piece of tissue or a leaf, label and date it, and have a lab or vet identify and test the tick for you.