Protect Yourself from Lyme disease

THE DEER TICK that carries the spiral-shaped bacteria (spirochete) that causes Lyme disease is as big as the head of a pin. But don’t let the size fool you. These spirochetes can cause plenty of trouble. The symptoms of Lyme disease include fatigue, joint and muscle ain, sleep disorders, memory impairment, brain fog, panic attacks, numbness, tingling, burning and weakness. Lyme disease has been reported in all 48 states of the continental U.S.

See your MD immediately

It’s critical to get treatment for Lyme disease as soon as you realize you have been bitten by a deer tick, even if you don’t see a red rash or a bull’s-eye.

Untreated Lyme disease can result in even more severe symptoms, such as meningitis, paralysis or heart block.

Seeing your doctor right away for an exam can avoid these problems. “Early diagnosis means a patient will respond better to conventional antibiotics,” says Dalilah Restrepo, M.D., a physician in the Infectious Diseases Division of St. Luke’s– Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. “It also prevents the evolution into late or chronic Lyme, which is more difficult to treat.”

If it is diagnosed early, the treatment for Lyme disease is a 14- to 21-day course of oral antibiotics, usually doxycycline.

Protect yourself

Ultimately, your best defense against Lyme disease is prevention. “Using a bug repellent containing DEET and wearing protective clothing such as long pants tucked into socks is the first line of defense,” says Restrepo. It’s also a good idea to wear a long-sleeved shirt (white clothes are best) and a hat, walk in the middle of trails and avoid leaning on trees or sitting on logs. Inspect your skin for ticks immediately after spending time outdoors. If you remove the tick right away you may be able to prevent the transmission of Lyme disease. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/Lyme.

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