The fall season is upon us. That means the leaves are changing colors, roasted marshmallows over bonfires, and pumpkins are upon us. It also is peak season for deer ticks, which carry the bacteria for lyme disease.
Lyme disease can affect both humans and animals and is transferred primarily by ticks. The tick is no bigger than the size of a freckle, often too small to be noticed. Yet, if not checked and treated properly, it can have big implications. That is why it is important to do a thorough check after long periods spent outside, even if it is just around your house.
Fall and spring is the time of year when Lyme disease can be found anywhere deer or deer mice are. Adult deer ticks feed primarily on white-tailed deer and are often passed on to pets and humans who walk in wooded or grassy areas.
Caused by a bite from an infected deer tick, the Lyme disease bacteria enter the skin through the bite and eventually make their way into the bloodstream. To transmit the disease, the tick usually must be attached for 36 – 48 hours – which is why it needs to be removed as soon as possible to prevent infection. If left untreated, the tick can have serious long-term impact. It can cause chronic joint inflammation, neurological symptoms (such as facial palsy and neuropathy), cognitive defects and/or heart rhythm irregularities.
Eliminating the likelihood of Lyme disease begins with prevention. This includes regularly checking for ticks on people and pets, wearing long pants and sleeves to limit exposure, taping the bottom of pants to socks, bathing pets regularly, and using insect repellent.
The most common sign is a rash that may initially appear at the site of the tick bite. Over several days, this may expand to the well-known bull’s eye pattern, with a red outer ring surrounding a clear area. However, sometimes the rash may not occur at all, that’s why it’s always important to be vigilant and check for ticks after long periods of time spent outside. Antibiotics are used to treat Lyme disease and, in general, the sooner treatment begins the better.
Be sure to contact your doctor if you have any concerns or further questions. Having the tick itself tested, once it’s been removed, can help determine the type of tick and whether it has been infected.