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Lyme Disease: small tick, big consequences

Lyme disease is a hidden danger. Tiny ticks carry Lyme and are easily missed. Map courtesy of the CDC.

Lyme disease is a hidden danger. Tiny ticks carry Lyme and are easily missed. Map courtesy of the CDC.

Alex Ismael

Alex Ismael

Lyme disease is a hidden danger. Tiny ticks carry Lyme and are easily missed. Map courtesy of the CDC.

by Alex Ismael, Reporter

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A few weeks ago, my mom went to get a routine blood test. When the results came back, it was a positive for Lyme Disease.

We were all confused.

I would not characterize my mom as an outdoor lover, she is not one who willingly goes into woods or grassy areas. My family has no idea how she contracted Lyme to begin with.

She had gotten Lyme sometime in the last 3-6 months and had no idea that she even had a tick on her.

“Even though I’ve seen and removed ticks on myself, as well other people and pets in the past, those must’ve been the larger ones, because I didn’t realize just how small the ones that carry Lyme are!”, said Jen Ismael.

It’s important to spread awareness about the dangers of Lyme because ticks are very easy to miss and the effects can last possibly a lifetime.

Ismael adds, “Having to take long term antibiotics is not only a hassle; it’s also difficult because of the side effects.”

A common misconception about ticks is that they have a season, in the warm months. In actuality, ticks are out year round. Specifically, ticks that carry Lyme, the blacklegged or deer tick. In warm months, people are just more likely to go into areas that have ticks which carry Lyme, which makes it seem like there is a season.

The warmer months of 2017 bring in an increased probability of getting Lyme. Environmental factors over the past few years have lead to an increase in mice who carry Lyme and promote tick populations.

Along with increased tick populations they are expected to spread to new areas across the country as mice populations spread.

Previously, cases of Lyme were pretty much confined to the Northeast, from New England down to Southern Virginia, pockets in the Midwest and West Coast. As ticks spread this year, they bring tick-borne diseases with them.

What are the most common symptoms of Lyme?

A bullseye rash is often a common thought, but in reality, only 70-80% of those infected get that rash. Oftentimes, the rash is not bullseye or target shaped, but just a large red rash that expands.

Other symptoms include fever, flu-like symptoms, joint pain and muscle weakness.

A major problem with Lyme is that it is often misdiagnosed due to so many overlaps in the symptoms. Lyme is best to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible as the earlier your diagnosis, the more likely you will make a full recovery from it.

Long term effects can include short term memory problems, muscle pains and weakness, joint pain, poor sleep, mood problems and more (up to 5,000 other symptoms have been reported).

What can be done to prevent Lyme?

It is very important to add a daily tick check to your schedule. This can be done in the shower. Check for areas where ticks can hide on your body. This would include your scalp, behind ears, armpits and groin.

If you find a tick, remove it immediately. The best way to do this is with a pair of tweezers, remove the tick as close to the skin as possible.

Do NOT squish or smash the tick to kill it. Any other diseases it could have been carrying will be exposed. Rather, put it in a container of alcohol for 24 hours to effectively kill it.

It is important to be careful about checking for ticks to prevent Lyme. This year brings in an increased risk of contraction, especially in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Spreading awareness will help prevent cases for family members and friends, so don’t forget to share this valuable information!

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Lyme Disease: small tick, big consequences