Steps to avoid infection from ticks
Updated: October 21, 2012 1:07PM
The crisp fall weather makes this the ideal season to go hiking, horseback riding along the trail or sit around a warm campfire.
However, the woods are also home a common eight-legged parasite that may be carrying harmful bacteria.
Ticks are an external parasite that feed on the blood of humans and other mammals. Although many ticks are not carriers of dangerous bacteria, some ticks can carry a variety of infectious diseases, including Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection carried by deer ticks and is the most common tick-borne disease in the Northern Hemisphere. The disease is transmitted when an infected tick bites a human and remains attached long enough to become engorged with blood and transmit the bacteria. There are several areas in America that are endemic for this disease, with the greatest number of cases seen just north of the Chicago and on the East Coast.
There are several stages of Lyme disease:
Bull’s-eye-Shaped Rash Forms. The classic sign of an early infection is a painless bull’s-eye-shaped rash lesion in the vicinity of a bite which usually appears three to 30 days after a bite has occurred.
Bacteria Spreads into the Bloodstream. Within days to weeks, the bacteria spreads into the bloodstream and more bull’s-eye shaped lesions may occur elsewhere on the body.
Neurologic and Cardiologic Symptoms Occur. Some neurologic symptoms such as headaches, memory disturbances, meningitis and sleep disturbances may occur. In some patients, abnormal heart rhythms may occur. These symptoms often happen week to months after exposure.
Advance Progression. In very rare cases, Lyme disease may progress to a syndrome of migratory arthritis affecting various joints and having debilitating neurologic effects several months after the initial bite. The concept of having debility many years after exposure or “chronic Lyme disease” is controversial and not uniformly treated.
Dr. Mia A. Taormina of Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare advises prevention by avoiding wooded and brushy areas, using insect repellant with at least 20 percent DEET on exposed skin, checking yourself for ticks and showering within the first one to two hours after coming in from outdoor activities. ~.
Shauna Schuda wrote this article for Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare.