What is Lyme disease anyway?
Spring is back, but that means ticks are too and some of those little jerks cause Lyme disease in humans. When deer ticks are infected with a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, they can transmit it to humans.
How? By biting you and sometimes even burrowing under your skin. Sounds nightmarish right? It can be.
More than 25,000 Americans will be diagnosed with Lyme disease this year. But, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 20 percent of people who live in high risk areas have no idea they're at risk.
What does a deer tick look like? Super cute.
Okay, we lied, they're pretty creepy looking. They can vary in color slightly with an orange-brown to a brown-red hue and their size is usually no larger than a sesame seed.
Ticks aren't the easiest thing in the world to spot, but you definitely don't want them hanging around too long. In fact, the longer they're embedded in you, the better chance of getting the disease. Yikes.
Where do they live? On deers and maybe in your backyard.
Lyme disease has been found on all but one continent, Antarctica. Unless you live there, we're talking to you.
There is a higher prevalence of the disease in certain areas, however, it can occur all across the United States. According to limedisease.org, some states may report less incidence due to a lack of testing.
While ticks can be found on the white-tailed deer and in wooded areas, they can also be found in your backyard. If your yard is shady and damp with rotting leaves, tall grass, woodpiles, shrubs and rockwalls, you're attracting mice, which, in turn, attract ticks.
You know those friends who have sunny backyard cocktails at your house? Hand them a rake.
What if you see one on you? Don't freak out. (Okay, maybe just a little.)
You won't feel it bite, but hopefully you'll spot it. When you do, the Mayo Clinic suggests removing it from your skin as soon as possible.
"Gently grasp the tick near its head or mouth. Don't squeeze or crush the tick, but pull carefully and steadily. Once you've removed the entire tick, dispose of it and apply antiseptic to the bite area."
If a tick has attached itself to your body for days, it may have burrowed under the skin. In that case, you likely need the aid of a health professional in the removal process.
If you want the tick to be tested for lyme disease (only live ones can be tested), place it in a container with a tight lid and a damp cotton ball to keep it alive.
And make sure to check your body for more ticks. Get a friend to help, if you need them.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease? Bullseye. No really, a bullseye.
If infection stays localized, you might experience the following:
a red bulls-eye type rash, chills, headache, fatigue, fever muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes
If infection spreads you might experience the following:
more rashes, Bell's palsy, meningitis, swollen large joints, heart palpitations and dizziness
How to avoid contracting Lyme disease:
Do daily tick searches on your body, even in the nooks and crannies. Check your pets too because they can carry ticks into the house.
Avoid high risk tick habitation such as damp, shady, woody or grassy areas.
Create tick free areas in your yard by clearing tall grasses, shrubs, woodpiles and other things that may attract (tick carrying) mice.
Walk in the center of paths.
Wear light colored clothing so you spot them.
Wear clothes that cover your body such as enclosed shoes. Tuck pants into socks when in grassy, wooden areas.
Keep hair tied back when gardening.
Many Lyme disease websites also suggest wearing an insect repellent with 20% Deet.
Should we be terrified? Nope. Go ahead and explore nature.
Just be smart. (And make plenty of s'mores.)
Make sure to share with your friends and family so they can protect themselves from Lyme disease.