What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that you can get if you are bitten by a tick that carries the infection
. It is named for Lyme, a town in Connecticut where the infectious disease was first identified. But you don't have to live in Connecticut to get it. Lyme disease has been found almost everywhere in the United States. So, unless you're in Hawaii or Puerto Rico it's time for a tick alert. back to top
How do you get Lyme disease?
Mice, rats, and deer, oh my! Those rodents and deer can carry Lyme disease. Ticks pick up the bacteria
that causes Lyme disease when they bite animals. The ticks that can carry Lyme disease are very tiny and hard to see. It may look like a puffy new freckle on your skin. If one of those infected tiny ticks bites you and holds on to your body for at least 24 hours, you can get Lyme disease. back to top
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
Lyme disease has three stages. The first stage usually begins 3 to 31 days after the tick bite. You may feel like you have the flu, with symptoms such as fever, headache
, and swollen glands (called lymph nodes
). Most people who have Lyme disease get a rash called "erythema migrans." This rash looks like a bull's eye. You may see a round area of redness with the tick bite in the middle. This rash may keep getting bigger and you may see a clear patch or a little pimple in the middle.
The second stage of Lyme disease can occur from days to months after the tick bite. This stage is usually more serious than the first stage. The bull's eye rash can spread and you may develop arthritis
, especially in your knees. You may even have heart problems or nerve problems.
Months to years after the original tick bite, your symptoms may get more severe. This is the third stage of Lyme disease. back to top
How can I find out if I have Lyme disease?
Be sure to see your health professional if you have a bull's eye rash or think you might have Lyme disease. It can be difficult to tell if you have it. None of the blood tests that are available is perfect. You may need to have several different blood tests to find out whether or not you have Lyme disease. If you have a bull's eye rash, your health professional may treat you for Lyme disease even if the blood tests are negative. back to top
How can I cure Lyme disease?
The good news is that Lyme disease is fairly easy to treat. Your health professional may want you to take antibiotic
drugs such as tetracycline
or amoxicillin. If you have stage three Lyme disease with severe symptoms, your health professional may recommend you get intravenous
antibiotics for two to three weeks. This means the antibiotics will be given to you through a tube inserted into your veins. back to top
How can I avoid getting Lyme disease?
It's cool to play it safe in high-risk areas. If you're going for a hike, you can prevent tick bites by wearing long sleeves and pants tucked into your socks. Insect repellant can also help keep those critters off you. Anytime you explore the great outdoors, whether in the woods, fields, or near tall beach grass, be sure to check your body for ticks and remove them immediately if you find them. Ticks like warm, moist places, so pay careful attention to your underarms, groin
, and behind your ears at the hairline when doing your tick check. back to top
How do I remove a tick?
It usually takes more than 24 hours for a tick to infect you with Lyme disease, so you'll want to check for ticks on a daily basis. If you find a tick on your body, remove it as soon as possible. It's important that you remove the tick carefully to get it all. Have a friend or an adult help out if you're nervous. Here's how you do it:
- Use a stiff card, such as a credit card, to scrape the tick out. Slowly scrape the tick outward and off your body.
- Don't grab the body of the tick because you could pull it off and leave the head behind.
- Don't light a match and try to burn the tick off. You could burn yourself!
- Do not put any irritating substances on the tick in the hope that this will make it jump off. It probably won't help and it may even hurt you.
- Be sure to clean the bite with disinfectant.
You may want to ask an adult to carefully remove the tick with tweezers or see your health professional to have the tick removed. Even if you remove all of the tick, call your health professional if you get a rash or other symptoms of Lyme disease. back to top