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Chronic Lyme Disease: How to Best Avoid Being Affected

EliseMorganMay 17, 2016, 10:20:37 AM
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Tick bites are more than a few drops of blood lost to an ectoparasite: according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates, as many as 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease every year in the U.S. alone. Removing a tick immediately upon detection will put an end to its feeding and growth, but once contracted, Lyme disease can cause serious health problems if not treated promptly.

Lyme is transmitted by Borrelia Burgdorferi bacteria, and it can usually be remedied easily with antibiotics. Left unattended, however, initial rash, fatigue, fever, headache, nausea, and muscle and joint soreness can evolve into a chronic condition that can lead to brain and nervous system damage, cardiac problems, Lyme arthritis, memory loss and permanent impairment of motor and/or sensory function in lower extremities.

Fortunately, there are multiple failsafe ways to avoid contracting Lyme disease.

Avoid camping or hiking in tick-populated areas

Before embarking on a hiking or camping trip, check whether the region you intend to visit is a tick hotpot. As a general rule, ticks thrive in moist and humid areas covered with thick wood, forests, bushes, and tall grass, and the period from late spring to midsummer is the peak season of tick activity. In the U.S., high-risk areas comprise New England, the Mid-Atlantic States, Upper Midwest, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and upstate New York, and New South Wales’ territories of Coffs Harbor, South Coast and Sydney’s northern beaches and Western suburbs are known to be Australia’s most dangerous tick-thriving regions.

Unfortunately, Borrelia Burgdorferi-infected ticks are found in all regions of the world (except Antarctica), so in case you are not sure whether the destination is populated by the disease-bearing parasite, contact the regional department of health and inquire about incidence of Lyme disease in the district.

Wear protective clothing

When visiting grassy or wooded territory, wear hats, socks, ankle-deep boots, gloves, long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into shoes or socks. It would also be a good idea to treat your clothes, footwear, rucksacks and gear with permethrin prior to departure, as the chemical will kill ticks before they get a chance to bite if they land on your clothes. A single permethrin treatment will normally endure a few washings, but you should avoid applying it to your skin. Also, go with light- or bright-colored clothing as it will make it easier to spot and remove ticks before they bite.

Use a tick repellent

The CDC recommends spraying an insect repellent containing 20-30% DEET to clothing and skin before visiting a grassy, wooded or bushy area. If you are travelling with children, avoid spraying the repellant to their eyes, mouth and hands as the chemicals used against ticks are strong and can be toxic if inhaled or swallowed. When applying repellents, follow the instructions closely, just to stay on the safest side of tick safety. In addition to repellents, pack basic surgical supplies like caviwipes so that you would be able to remove a tick in case it clings to your skin during the outing. 

Check clothing and gear before entering the house

Upon return home, carefully inspect exposed skin, hair, clothes, footwear and outdoor gear for ticks to prevent bringing them into the house. Check the lower parts of the body, as well as ears, belly button, armpits, groin, and scalp thoroughly: ticks are no bigger than a pinhead, so you may not discover them during a casual examination.

Also, make sure you shake the clothes upon undressing and wash-dry the clothing and outdoor gear at high heat to kill any ticks which you may have failed to spot beforehand. If possible, shower immediately upon return, as this will prevent bites by ticks that may have remained undetected. Ticks can sometimes cling to the skin and bodily hair for hours before attaching themselves, so showering or cleaning yourself with a washcloth or wet wipe will be the best bite deterrent granted you followed the previous steps meticulously.

Remove ticks from the skin

In case you detect a tick on your skin, use tweezers to gently remove it. Do not apply irritants to the skin prior to removing the insect: nail polish, petroleum or acetone will not knock out the parasite, they will only force it to release possibly contaminated substances into your skin. You should grasp the tick using tweezers as close as possible to its head and mouth, and pull it lightly and steadily to prevent crushing it or risking it to release bacteria into your blood system.

Upon removal, apply an antiseptic to the bitten area. In case the tick was attached to your skin for less than 24 hours, the risk of contracting Lyme disease will be minimal. Monitor the bite for a few days and in case you see rash or red patches spreading around it, contact a healthcare provider immediately. The physician may prescribe an antibiotic in high-risk cases, but this is usually not necessary.

Tick-proof your backyard

If possible, clear away leaves, bushes, tall grass, and shrubs from your backyard, or at least from the recreational areas such as the playground and patio. Stock firewood in sunny spots, brush the area around your home regularly and place wood chips, tiles, or gravel between lawns, grassy spots, vegetation and wooded areas to keep ticks at bay. Also, apply tick control chemical agents to the lawn and play area or have professional pest control tick-proof the backyard for you.

Educate yourself on Lyme disease symptoms

Though the symptoms vary from one person to another, most common signs that you may have contracted Lyme disease include:

• red rash spreading from the bite;

• persistent headache;

• fatigue;

• fever;

• flu-like symptoms;

• muscle and joint soreness;

• nausea;

• vomiting.

 

 

In case you were infected with Lyme once, that does not make you immune to the disease. That is why the best deterrent to chronic Lyme is preventing the tick bite or talking action as soon as you have been bitten by the insect.