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What you need to know about Lyme disease

Spending more time outdoors? Check out these tips for how to help prevent tick bites and Lyme disease.

05/24/2021
Closeup of hikers' feet walking down a trail.

Lyme disease is spread by infected deer, bear, or black-legged ticks through contact with your skin when they attach themselves to you. Ticks cannot jump or fly and are mostly found in grassy or wooded areas. Untreated Lyme disease can produce a wide range of symptoms, depending on the stage of infection. These include fever, rash, joint and muscle aches, severe headache, facial paralysis, and arthritis. Pets are also at risk.

Tips to help prevent a tick bite

  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents with 20% to 30% DEET on exposed skin.
  • Use repellent containing 0.5% permethrin on clothing, shoes, and camping gear (do not apply to skin).
  • Take a shower as soon as you can after working or playing outdoors. Look for ticks on your body after being outside. Ticks attach anywhere, but they like body creases such as armpits, groin, backs of the knees, in and around your hair or ears, and the nape of the neck. (See below for safe tick removal.)
  • Check clothing for ticks and remove any that you find. Tumble dry clothes on high heat for 10 minutes to help kill any ticks. (Note: Wet clothing may need more time.) If clothes need to be washed, be sure to wash with hot water.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also have tips for how to prevent ticks on your pets and in your yard.

What to do if you get a tick bite

  • Remove ticks from your skin immediately. (Be sure to follow these steps to safely remove a tick.) 
  • Watch for symptoms of Lyme disease: any type of rash, fever, muscle aches, or fatigue. It can take 2 to 32 days for symptoms to appear.
  • Contact your doctor right away if you have any symptoms. Be prepared with a list of your symptoms and when they started, any medicines or supplements you take (along with doses), and any questions you may have.

Lyme disease treatment

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria. Once diagnosed, your doctor would likely recommend oral or intravenous (IV) antibiotics based on the severity of your symptoms and disease progression. Early treatment is one of the most effective ways to cure Lyme disease. Prevention is key. Always do your best to limit exposure to ticks and prevent infection for yourself, your family, and your pets.

 

Additional sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Lyme Disease Foundation, WebMD and the Connecticut Department of Public Health.