Lyme disease first appeared in Connecticut in the late 1970s, but thanks to climate change, the habitat of deer ticks (the type of tick that carries Lyme) has expanded across the United States, with unexpected areas like northern California and the upper Midwest emerging as hotbeds of Lyme infections.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 320,000 people contract Lyme disease every year, but in recent years, the population of deer ticks has exploded, which means that number is much, much higher.
Lyme disease is a painful ailment that causes severe joint pain, fatigue, confusion, headaches, and many other nasty symptoms that can persist for years without proper treatment. The bacteria that causes Lyme disease is passed to humans through a tick bite, but luckily, the transmission doesn’t usually happen instantly.
It can take up to 72 hours for the bacteria to be transmitted, which means if you can remove the tick immediately, your chances of contracting Lyme are much lower.
It’s important to remove a tick correctly, however.
As we enter into the highest risk season for Lyme disease, it’s a good time to brush up on the CDC’s tips for removing a tick:
1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub or soap and water.
4. Dispose of a live tick by submerging it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
Of course, you can’t remove a tick if you don’t know you have one on you, which is why it’s imperative to check yourself for ticks frequently this summer, especially after spending time in the forest, cuddling with pets or sitting in grassy areas.
Use a full-length mirror to check your entire body for ticks, paying special attention to areas of skin that were exposed to the outdoors.
Don’t forget to examine your scalp, armpits and other places where a tick can easily hide.
If you didn’t remove a tick in time, and notice a bull’s eye rash appearing in the area of the tick bite, go to the doctor immediately.
The chances of making a full recovery from Lyme disease are much better if you get treatment (usually a course of antibiotics) right away.
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[h/t: Consumer Reports]