Deer Ticks and Lyme Disease

As summer progresses people spend more time outside at local parks, family cabins, and campsites. While having fun in the sun is great, it also puts people at increased risk for tick bites that can lead to Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is an infection caused by bacteria called Borellia burgdorferri. The bacteria are carried by deer ticks that are native to northern midwestern states, like Minnesota. The bacteria are transferred to humans when a tick bites a person. It can take up to 48 hours of a tick being attached to transmit the disease, so a bite does not always mean you have been infected.

Prevention and detection are critical to staying safe this summer. To prevent tick bites, avoid heavily wooded areas if possible. Use insect repellent that contains at least 20% DEET to deter ticks and be sure to perform a body check once inside. Deer ticks are very small and often hide in places like armpits, behind the ears, or the groin. Taking a shower after outdoor activities can help to wash ticks away as well as help to locate them. If a tick has attached itself to the skin, it can be removed with a tweezers by grabbing the tick at the surface of the skin and pulling straight up. After removal, clean the area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol if available. To kill the tick, place it in an air tight bag or simply flush it down the toilet.

Being bitten by a deer tick does not guarantee Lyme disease has been transmitted so it is important to watch for symptoms. The initial symptoms of Lyme disease are characterized by a red target/bullseye shaped rash and general flu-like symptoms such as aches, pains, and fatigue. These symptoms can take a few days to present themselves. If left untreated for an extended period, more serious symptoms can occur such as severe headaches, stiffness, arthritis, nerve pain or numbing, and an irregular heartbeat.

If anyone experiences the symptoms described above it is important they see a doctor to diagnose and treat Lyme disease. Lyme disease can be easily treated using common antibiotics such as amoxicillin, cefuroxime, or doxycycline. It is typical to receive a 14-day course of an antibiotic. If an antibiotic is prescribed it is important to complete the entire course to ensure successful treatment.

References:

Buff, Wayne and Fuhrman, Cliff. “Insect Bites and Stings.” Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs- An interactive approach to self-care. 16th edition. Washington, DC: American Pharmacists Association, 2015. (690)

“Lyme Disease.” Centers for Disease Controls and Preventions. Web. 23 May 2017.

“Lyme Disease.” Disease. Micromedex Solutions [online]. Updated periodically. Truven Health Analytics Inc. Accessed July 26, 2017.