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5 Things You Should Know About Lyme Disease

Wooded areas aren't the only places you can pick up a tick

5 Things Infectious Disease Doctors Want You to Know About Lyme Disease

Summer is right around the corner, which means more people will be spending time outdoors. Although Pennsylvania is home to plenty of beautiful places to hike and camp, it’s also home to a number of bugs, including deer ticks, which transmit Lyme disease.

“Pennsylvania is one of the leading states in the U.S. for Lyme disease, but there are certainly ways to enjoy being outdoors safely during the spring and summer when ticks are present. It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease and how you can prevent tick bites,” says Mark Knouse, MD, Chief, Infectious Diseases at Lehigh Valley Health Network.

Lyme disease basics

Knouse says there are a few things that you should know about Lyme disease as you start planning your summer adventures.

1. You don’t have to be in the woods to get a tick bite. It’s a misconception that you have to be in a wooded area to get Lyme disease. Most people contract Lyme disease within just 100 yards of their house. Deer ticks also live in tall grass and can be found on cats and dogs.

2. Not everyone with Lyme disease has a bullseye rash. A bullseye rash is the most well-known symptom associated with Lyme disease, but it’s not always present. The rash, called erythema migrans, is often a telltale sign of Lyme disease, but up to 30 percent of those with Lyme disease never get the rash.

3. Symptoms of Lyme disease can be similar to other conditions. Some doctors refer to Lyme disease as the great imitator because it shares symptoms with several conditions, including arthritis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and lupus.

4. Diagnosing Lyme disease can be tricky. Because it mimics other conditions, Lyme disease can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. The best method to diagnose Lyme disease is through a two-step blood test, which looks for antibodies made by the body in response to infection.

5. Treatment is available for Lyme disease. The good news is that Lyme disease is highly treatable, especially if caught early. Treatment in early stages is a simple 10-to-14-day course of oral antibiotics. In more severe cases, antibiotics may be administered intravenously or for a longer period of time.

Reducing your risk for Lyme disease

Knouse says there are ways to minimize your risk for getting Lyme disease. “If you are going to be in a wooded area or an area with high grass, cover up as much skin as possible and use an insect repellant with DEET. You also should thoroughly check your clothing, yourself and your children for ticks after coming indoors,” says Knouse.

He also says showering within two hours after doing a lot of yardwork has been shown to be effective for reducing the risk for Lyme disease after being exposed to deer ticks.

If you do find a tick on yourself or children, remove it as soon as possible with tweezers. Once you carefully remove the tick, dispose of it by putting it in rubbing alcohol or flushing it down the toilet. Apply antiseptic to the bite area and watch for any symptoms of Lyme disease.

If you find what appears to be a deer tick that is engorged and was attached to you for 48 hours or longer, there may be an option for a single dose of doxycycline, which can help prevent Lyme disease in these situations – you would need to call your provider to discuss this option.

Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection common in the Lehigh Valley.

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