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Do you and your family enjoy a good walk in the woods or around parks? If there are any ticks in your area, it is important to be aware of the dangers that these tiny parasites can pose.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the blacklegged tick (Ixodes ricinus) that can ruin peoples lives if left untreated. What can you do to prevent Lyme disease, what are its symptoms, and how is this disease treated?

About Lyme disease

Lyme disease is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium, which is carried by blacklegged ticks. The disease was first discovered in the village of Old Lyme, Connecticut, in 1975. The village s children, who played outside a lot, kept getting ill. In the end, ticks were identified as the cause. Lyme disease can be caught anywhere in the world with ticks and that s basically everywhere except Antarctica! Lyme Disease is a big problem in North America and Europe, but South America, Africa, and Asia are not exempt. Now for the symptoms. Lyme disease comes in three stages. At stage 1, or early localized Lyme disease, the infection is limited to the site where the tick attached. At stage 2 (early disseminated Lyme disease), the bacteria are starting to spread through the body. By stage 3, or late disseminated Lyme, the bacteria are everywhere. Let s see how the possible symptoms correspond to the three stages of Lyme:

  • Stage 1: Ring-shaped inflammation at the infection site. Flu-like symptoms, including stiff joints, muscle ache, throat ache, swollen lymph nodes, and fatigue.
  • Stage 2: Muscle pain and swelling in the knees and other large joints, weak or paralyzed facial muscles, disorientation, heart palpitations, serious inflammation of the skin on hands or feet.
  • Stage 3: This stage can set in months or years after infection. Various neural problems can commence at this stage, and the patient will have weak muscles and abnormal muscle movement. Speech can be problematic, and the whole body is affected by numbness and tingling feelings. Lyme disease can be fatal if not treated.

Diagnosis and treatment

Anyone who has a ring-shaped inflammation on their skin or feels like they have the flu after a tick encounter should see their doctor and get tested for Lyme disease. Of course, you don t always see tick. If you are an outdoorsy person, you should be especially aware of the possibility of Lyme. Diagnosis is done through a blood test which detect antibodies to Lyme disease, because it is hard to isolate the bacteria themselves. Treatment consists of a 21-day course of the heavy antibiotic doxycycline, and sometimes amoxicillin as well. After completion, you should have another blood test to ensure you are Lyme-free.

Prevention

Most tick bites don t result in Lyme disease, but everyone who lives in an area with ticks should inspect themselves and their children regularly for ticks after having spent time outdoors. If you remove the tick within the first 24 hours, the risk of getting Lyme is negligent. The Lyme-causing bacteria reside within the tick s stomach, and are released after a tick has got its fair share of your blood. One should pull the tick out directly without squeezing or rubbing alcohol on it these things can trigger the tick into releasing its poison . Nobody in a tick-filled area will be able to be sure they are safe from Lyme. Some say that covering the body and wearing boots helps, but others know that ticks creep up and under clothes, hats, and boots and find their way in despite all odds. Many people in tree-rich areas recommend insect repellents with DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) to keep ticks away. This helps deter ticks, but is no guarantee.

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