In our previous post, “Tick Removal and Prevention” we discussed the importance of tick bite prevention and how to safely remove them if you do get bit. So, what if you did everything you could to protect yourself but still found a tick attached to your skin? Following the removal of the tick, save it for Lyme disease testing, then pay attention to your body’s signs and symptoms in the following days and weeks, and never hesitate to seek out medical attention (remember, at eMedical Urgent Care, all walk-ins are welcome).
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease (caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi) is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected blacklegged deer tick. It is the most common tick-borne illness in North America and Europe. Lyme disease may also be transmitted in utero; from a mother to her unborn baby.
How Common is Lyme Disease?
Each year, approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to CDC by state health departments and the District of Columbia (although they estimate that 300,000 infections occur each year). According to the CDC, Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vectorborne illness in the United States. Although Lyme disease has been diagnosed in almost every state, most cases reported to the CDC are in the Northeast and upper Midwest—96% of cases come from 13 states (including New Jersey).
I’ve Been Bitten by a Tick. What Should I Do?
After you safely remove the tick, save it for identification (the tick can be tested whether it is alive or dead) and infection status. If the tick is tested positive for infection with Borrelia burgdorferi (the Lyme disease organism), your potential risk for infection is increased but not confirmed. In most cases, to transmit Lyme disease, a deer tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours so it is important to pay attention to any possible reactions.
What are the Signs of Lyme Disease?
If you were bitten by a tick and observe any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately.
- Bull’s-Eye Pattern Rash– About 36 hours after a tick bit, up to 80 percent of infected people develop a rash similar to a bull’s-eye — a solid center with a ring around it.
- Fever or Chills– Flu-like symptoms are very common and can start at any time from 3 days up to a month after you have been bitten.
- Aches and Pains– Headache, fatigue and muscular aches are all symptoms that can also develop.
- Other signs– If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause more serious symptoms including: swelling and joint pain, trouble focusing thoughts, poor memory, weakness or paralysis in your facial muscles.
- Post Treatment Symptoms– Approximately 10-20% of patients with Lyme disease have symptoms that can last months to years after treatment with antibiotics. This condition is known as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS). These symptoms can include muscle and joint pains, cognitive difficulties, problems with your nervous system and heart, sleep disturbances, and fatigue.
What Do I Do if I Suspect Lyme Disease?
Although only a minority of tick bites actually lead to Lyme disease, the longer the tick remains attached to your body, the greater your risk of getting the disease. So if you’ve been bitten and experience any of the above signs and symptoms, visit eMedical immediately. Your doctor will take a thorough history, ask you questions about your symptoms and possibly take a blood test to see if you have certain antibodies in your blood identifying the disease.
If tested positive, the main treatment is antibiotics, which usually cure Lyme disease within 3 weeks depending on the extent of the disease. Patients treated with antibiotics in the early stages of the disease usually recover completely.