It makes sense that summer is the favorite season for so many people. You no longer have to hide your outfits beneath bulky coats, you can go hiking, you can host cookouts in your backyard, and you can hit up the beach whenever you want (just make sure you wear your sunscreen).
But nothing is perfect, so humans have to share their summer space with their least favorite creatures: All. The. Bugs. As if the itchy mosquito bites aren’t bad enough, you also need to be on the lookout for ticks.
What Is Lyme Disease, and Who’s at Risk?
Ticks can carry and transmit a variety of infections, but the most common in the United States is Lyme disease. This infection is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.
Lyme disease affects about 30,000 Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Lyme disease most commonly occurs between June and August, and it concentrates in certain states/regions. In 2015, 95 percent of reported cases of Lyme disease occurred within these 14 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
If you live in or are traveling to any of these states this summer, you’ll need to be especially vigilant for ticks on your skin. (Psst … don’t forget to check your furry friends for ticks as well.)
Symptoms of Lyme Disease to Look For
If—despite your best efforts—you find a tick attached to your skin, you’ll want to be on the lookout for abnormal symptoms after removal. Here are the first symptoms of Lyme disease you might notice three to 30 days after the bite:
A large, non-itchy red rash in the shape of a bull’s eye (called an erythema migrans rash
Muscle and joint aches
Swollen lymph nodes
The bull’s-eye rash is the most infamous symptom of Lyme disease. However, 20 to 30 percent of people with Lyme disease do not experience this telltale rash, according to the CDC (i.e. no rash does not mean it’s not Lyme disease).
Symptoms of Lyme disease can progress if the infection goes untreated, which can result in drooping facial features (facial palsy), heart palpitations, shooting pains in the hands or feet, dizzy spells, and problems with short-term memory. The earlier you begin treatment, the less likely Lyme disease will become severe.
What to Do If You Notice Symptoms of Lyme Disease
If you experience any type of fever or other abnormal symptoms following an insect bite, it’s best to visit your doctor ASAP.
Doctors treat Lyme disease with oral antibiotics, and most people see full recovery within a few weeks. However, some can have lingering symptoms that can last more than six months after the infection. This is called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, or PTLDS. Some people refer to this as “chronic Lyme disease.”
Get your safest summer yet with these tips: