Lyme Infection: What It Is, How You Get It, And How To Prevent It

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Lyme Infection: What It Is, How You Get It, And How To Prevent It

Most of us love seeing lovely white-tailed deer in our neighborhoods, but what about the ticks that live on those deer, and the Lyme infection that’s carried by those ticks? But before you panic and lock yourself indoors, here is some helpful information about Lyme disease that hopefully will reassure you that we don’t all have to move!

Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete (bacteria), which is transmitted by the bite of an infected deer tick.

Richel, (Peter Richel, MD), Westchester Health Pediatrics

Peter Richel, MD, FAAP

But the real vector for the transmission of infection is the field mouse, so Bambi is actually not at fault!

To contract Lyme disease, first you must be bitten by an infected deer tick and the infection has to be transmitted. Lyme infection does not occur with every tick bite humans receive. Your risk is increased when your tick exposure is increased, such as hiking in the woods or on nature walks.

When Lyme infection has been transmitted, here are some telltale signs and symptoms:

  • A characteristic rash resembling a bull’s eye, ranging in size from 3-20 inches in diameter.  The rash can occur anywhere on the body, not just at the bite site.
  • The most common systemic symptoms: persistent headache, fatigue, muscle ache, large joint pain and temperature variation. The key word to remember is the word persistent. Many of these symptoms can be caused by other illnesses, but if they persist over time you should consider Lyme infection as a possible cause.

The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to wear proper clothing and do daily tick and rash checks.

Some preventive measures can be taken when hiking in the woods, and are effective if routinely followed. First, it’s wise to wear shoes, socks, light pants tucked into the socks, and long sleeves (this can get hot!).

Next, clothing can be sprayed lightly with Deep Woods Off, but please don’t use this on skin. For the skin, you can apply Skintastic or Avon Skin-So-Soft with good repellent quality and demonstrated safety. Please don’t use this on an infant less than 6 months of age.

And finally, line up the kids at bath time and check all their nooks and crannies, wherever a nasty tick might be hiding!

If you think your child might have Lyme disease, check in with your pediatrician.

Now that you know the origin of Lyme, its route and some of its symptoms, you’ll know what to look for — but don’t be anxious! Try to prevent transmission as best you can, but remember that it can be diagnosed and is successfully treatable with antibiotics. So go out there and enjoy the beautiful outdoors, even if Bambi and her ticks visit your yard!

By Peter Richel, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with Westchester Health Pediatrics.

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About the Author: ML Ball