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Everything You Need to Know About Lyme Disease — and How to Prevent It

Lyme disease is currently contracted by an estimated 300,000 Americans per year. As of now, there is no cure for the debilitating condition that causes chronic fatigue and other flu-like symptoms. The best way to prevent being infected is to be educated about precautions, warning signs, and how to remove a deer tick if found. We’ve compiled a list of everything you need to know about Lyme disease, and how to prevent it. These critical, pertinent Lyme disease facts will help you stay informed and, most importantly, healthy.

Did we miss any important Lyme disease facts? If so, please let us know, and make sure to SHARE this information with your family, friends, co-workers, and everybody else that you care aboutA person can only contract Lyme disease if bitten by a black-legged tick. The disease is contracted from the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which is carried by the tick. Because the disease is bacterial, it is not contagious from person to person.These tiny eight-legged arachnids are the size of poppy seeds during their “nymph”stage and grow into the size of sesame seeds. When unfed, they appear flat, however they become more rotund as they fill up on the blood of mammals.The majority of those carrying ticks live in tall grasses, small shrubs, underground cover, and woodpiles. The disease is now prevalent throughout the United States, but for many years it was only carried in ticks that lived in areas around New Jersey, Connecticut, and western Wisconsin.

Ticks are active any time the temperature is above 45 degrees, and adult ticks are more prevalent during the fall. Because of this, most cases of Lyme disease occur from May through August.As of now, no vaccine is readily available for humans. One did exist, but was discontinued due to insufficient consumer demand. Several vaccines exist for animals and should be used as a preventative on household pets.Tick bites tend to occur in places where the skin folds. So when doing a full body check after being in a wooded area, pay specific attention to the underarms, inside the elbow, and behind the knees.There are several ways to prevent being infected with Lyme disease. The easiest is to avoid heavily wooded areas with high grass. Keep play sets in the sun and avoid leaving piles of leaves or wet woodchips by your home. Woodchips! Be sure to spread the inexpensive, but effective, resource around the surface area of your property. Ticks despise woodchips because they dry out the flat arachnids that need to remain moist in order to live.When entering a wooded area, or other areas where infected ticks could be prevalent, it is crucial to dress properly. Wear long-sleeve shirts, long pants, long socks, and boots for optimal security.

In addition to wearing the proper attire, tick repellents that contain at least 20 percent of DEET can be sprayed on any exposed skin that is uncovered by clothing. Be sure to avoid your eyes, your mouth, and your nose — and the skin of children under 2 months old — when applying.Not a fan of repellents? Research shows that some essential oils may also work to prevent ticks from attaching to skin. Lemongrass, pennyroyal, eucalyptus, and citronella are the most effective. Oils should be applied to skin and clothing, and can be mixed with witch hazel to make a spray.

Due to their size, ticks often remain unseen or unfelt until it is too late. Another method of prevention is to bring along a lint roller when in wooded areas, and periodically brush over clothing to rid ticks before they get into your skin.

Hopping in the shower after walking through tick-filled areas is a crucial step of prevention. Be sure to use a scrubby sponge, a rough washcloth, or a brush to thoroughly cleanse your skin. Remember to double — and even triple-check — areas where skin folds.Your favorite furry pet is unfortunately most susceptible to tick bites, so be sure to thoroughly check the dog even if he or she has a collar. Check anywhere that a human would be checked, along with their ears, under their collar, their legs, and between their toes.If you do find a tick, don’t panic. Grab a pair of extra pointy tweezers and pinch where the mouthparts of the tick come in contact with the skin. Pull upward slowly and dispose of it, either by flushing it down the toilet or placing it in a Ziploc bag with alcohol. Once it’s removed, be sure to clean the bitten area.

Many believe that applying nail polish remover or petroleum jelly will make ticks go away. These will not work; once attached, ticks will remain until they’re pulled away. And don’t even think about trying to burn ticks with a match.
It’s important to know that not every tick carries Lyme disease, and even if one attaches to you, if removed quickly it’s unlikely that you’ll contract the disease. Once removed, watch for a rash shaped like a bull’s eye. It won’t be itchy, and can appear up to a month after the bite.Besides the famous telltale rash, infected individuals may have flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, and fatigue. Early stages of the disease can also cause severe headaches, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, fainting, and even Bell’s palsy.Besides the famous telltale rash, infected individuals may have flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, and fatigue. Early stages of the disease can also cause severe headaches, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, fainting, and even Bell’s palsy.

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