Real Housewives’ star, Yolanda Foster’s struggle with Lyme disease is once again putting a spotlight on the illness. She is searching worldwide for a cure, but unfortunately for her, right now, the best defense is prevention and early identification. Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics, and in the vast majority of patients, the treatment is effective. In fact, there is some debate over whether chronic Lyme disease is a true diagnosis, or if patients suffering with pain, fatigue and neurologic symptoms post-treatment have a different disease altogether. Medical professionals do agree Lyme disease can result in debilitating symptoms if left untreated.
How do you protect yourself and your family?
Know the Facts
- Lyme disease is transmitted by black-legged deer ticks
- Lyme is a result of infection with the bacterium, Borrelia Burgdorferi
- There is no evidence Lyme can be transmitted by any other mode
- All ticks do not transmit disease
- Avoid tick bites, especially in areas known to harbor deer ticks.
- Stay out of wooded areas or areas with high grasses
- When hiking, stick to the trail
- Cover as much skin as possible, with loose breathable clothing
- Repel ticks with DEET or permethrin. Use according to directions. Adults should apply on children to avoid ingestion or inhalation.
- For more information on insect repellants, visit the EPA guide
Check for Ticks
- Infected ticks have to be attached to the skin for 36-48 hours
- After coming in from the outdoors, check yourself and your kids
- Black legged ticks can be as small as a poppy seed, so the search has to be very thorough
- Look in hard to see areas, like the groin, scalp and armpits
- Pets cannot transmit disease, but they can bring ticks inside the home. Check them as well.
Look for Symptoms
- Symptoms of early Lyme disease usually appear within 3 – 30 days after infection and include:
- Red, expanding bulls-eye rash starting at the site of the bite
- Fever and chills
- Muscle and joint aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
- 70-80% of patients will get the trademark Erythema Migrans rash
- Because symptoms are vague, being vigilant and aware is key to getting timely treatment
Seek Medical Help
- If you suspect you have Lyme disease, see your doctor immediately.
- Diagnosis is best made by history and symptoms.
- Blood tests can be a useful adjunct in some cases.
- If untreated, the following symptoms can occur:
- Rash on other parts of the body
- Bell’s palsy – paralysis of the facial muscles
- Meningitis symptoms including headaches and neck stiffness
- Large joint pain
- Heart Palpitations and dizziness
As with most things, the best defense is a strong offense. Understand Lyme disease, have a healthy respect for its potential severity and be proactive. My daughter was infected with Lyme disease while apple picking when she was three. Before I saw the rash, I thought I had a child possessed. She was cranky, irritable and generally intolerable. I was almost relieved when I saw the rash, because I could blame her behavior on something other than bad parenting. I also knew she could be treated effectively with a course of antibiotics. She was back to normal in less than a week. Parents, always remember kids may not be able to explain what they are feeling. If your gut tells you something isn’t right, see your doctor.