Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How To Avoid Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease can be debilitating. Over ten years ago, my husband contracted it in North Carolina, and to this day he still suffers from decreased stamina, decreased immune system and Lyme Arthritis.

What is Lyme Disease? It is a tick-borne illness caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. The bacteria is transmitted to the individual through the bite of the black-legged tick. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic "bull's eye" skin rash called erythema migrans. It is usually successfully treated with a few weeks of antibiotics. However a few people continue to suffer long-term effects from the disease.

To reduce your chance of contracting Lyme Disease, you need to reduce your chance of being bitten by ticks. When outdoors in wooded areas, be sure to use bug repellant. And wear clothes that cover your exposed skin. Walk in the center of hiking trails to avoid being close to high grass and bushes, where ticks hide. A vaccine used to be available, but was discontinued because of low consumer demand.

As soon as you are done outdoors, you need to come home and bathe. Also you need to perform a whole body "tick-check," especially on children. Be sure to check under the arms, hair, belly button, and all the other cracks and crevices ticks love to hide out. Remove any ticks you find, being sure to remove their head along with their body. Tweezers and rubbing alcohol can help with this.

Be sure to check all of your gear too. Ticks like to hitch a ride home with you. Launder all of your clothing immediately to kill any remaining ticks. Make sure to use the highest heat setting when drying.

When we lived in North Carolina, we had a few acres that backed up to the woods. In summer, we had so many black-legged tick nymphs (baby or "seed" ticks) that we had to broadcast pesticide after my husband contracted Lyme Disease. (Literally, you could step into the woods and watch them march by the hundreds up your leg! They were approximately the size of a ball-point pen tip.) While spraying pesticide is not ideal, it is sometimes necessary if you have them in close proximity to your home.


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