When warmer weather arrives, those who relax outdoors, garden, garden, and engage in other activities should watch out for tiny enemies lurking in the undergrowth.
The black-legged ticks, also called deer ticks, also come out for the season. The tiny arachnids are carriers of Lyme disease, which infects more than 10,000 Pennsylvanians each year, reports the Lyme Disease Association.
“Pennsylvania is the No. 1 state for Lyme disease and southwestern Pennsylvania is a hot spot,” said Dr. Richard Wozniak of the Faculty of Family Medicine at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center.
May is the start of the Lyme disease season. Although it is possible to contract the infection at any time of the year, most cases are reported in late spring and early summer.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health notes that this happens not only when people go outdoors, but also when ticks show up.
“(Tick) nymphs are most active in late spring and early summer,” the department said in an article last year. “Most Lyme disease cases are attributed to nymph ticks. Because of their small size, they are very difficult to spot and remove to prevent the transmission of Lyme bacteria. “
Typical symptoms are fever, headache, tiredness and a characteristic rash that spreads from the bite site.
If left untreated, infection can affect the joints, heart, and nervous system.
“At the very least, it’s something we need to think about when patients come up with these symptoms,” Wozniak said.
About 80% of people with Lyme disease develop a rash, often called a “bulls-eye rash,” because the center is lighter in color than the surrounding inflammation. Wozniak said the rash could develop in a few days to a month after the tick bite.
It’s a symptom of early localized Lyme disease that can be easily treated with antibiotic pills, said Dr. Fiona McLellan from the UPMC Altoona Family Medicine Residency Faculty.
Prevention is the key
If left untreated, the bacteria will spread throughout the body and become Lyme disease, which spreads early. Symptoms can include numbness in the arms or legs, blurred vision, palpitations, chest pain, and facial paralysis.
The third stage is late-common Lyme disease, which can cause fatigue, arthritis, severe headaches or migraines, dizziness, dizziness, pain in joints or tendons, a stiff or sore neck, sleep changes, meningitis, mental foggy, difficulty concentrating, and serious illness.
More advanced stages require more aggressive antibiotics, including intravenous antibiotics, McLellan said.
“The stage of the disease defines what you treat it with,” she said.
Both local doctors agreed that the best way to avoid contracting Lyme disease is to avoid being bitten by ticks, or at least to remove the tick before enough bacteria get into the blood to become infected cause.
“The message should be: The best thing you can do about Lyme disease is to prevent Lyme disease,” said Wozniak.
It is best to wear long sleeved shirts tucked into long pants when out in the woods or brush areas. If it is possible to tuck pant legs in socks, another access point will be eliminated, McLellan said.
“If possible, wear light-colored clothing because the ticks will be easier to see,” she said.
Deet-containing insecticide can keep the ticks away, and spraying clothing with permethrin-containing insecticide can also help kill the ticks before they bite.
“Do a tick check”
Ticks have to attach themselves to the skin in order to feed. The longer they’re tied, the greater the chance of infection, doctors said.
“Take a shower within two hours of arriving from tick-prone areas,” Wozniak said. “Wash off and do a tick test and pick them up early before they have a chance of spreading Lyme disease.”
When a tick is attached, the best way to remove it is to use sharp tweezers and pull it straight out, he said.
Home remedies like rubbing the tick with petroleum jelly or touching it with a hot match head could actually make the situation worse, he said.
“That only makes it spit out and spread the disease further,” said Wozniak.
Just because a tick is stuck to the skin doesn’t mean the person has Lyme disease, McLellan said.
“If it’s been attached for less than 36 hours, the recommendation is for no treatment,” she said. “You should watch the area for a couple of weeks and make sure you don’t get a rash.”