Lyme Disease: Recognize the Signs and Symptoms
by Dr. Thomas K. Lo, Advanced Chiropractic
& Nutritional Healing Center
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
Early signs and symptoms of Lyme disease (3 to 30 days) after a tick bite are fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes. The erythema migrans (EM) rash occurs in approximately 70 to 80 percent of infected persons with Lyme’s, beginning at the site of a tick bite after a delay of 3 to 30 days (average is about 7 days). It expands gradually over a period of days, reaching up to 12 inches or more across. Sometimes, it will clear as it enlarges, resulting in a target or “bull’s-eye” appearance.
Later signs and symptoms (days to months) of untreated Lyme infection include severe headaches and neck stiffness, additional EM rashes on other areas of the body, arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly in the knees and other large joints. More symptoms are facial palsy; intermittent pain in tendons, muscles, joints, and bones; heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat; episodes of dizziness or shortness of breath; inflammation of the brain and spinal cord; nerve pain; shooting pains; numbness and tingling in the hands or feet; and problems with short-term memory can occur at later stages.
Of note about Lyme’s is that a small bump and/or redness at the site of a tick bite that occurs immediately and resembles a mosquito bite is common. This irritation generally goes away in one to two days and is not a sign of Lyme disease.
A rash with a very similar appearance to EM occurs with Southern Tick-associated Rash Illness (STARI), but is not Lyme disease.
Ticks can spread other organisms that may cause a different type of rash.
How do ticks transmit Lyme disease?
The blacklegged tick (or deer tick) spreads Lyme disease in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and north-central United States. The western-blacklegged tick spreads the disease on the Pacific Coast.
Ticks attach themselves to any part of the body and are often found in hard-to-see areas, such as the groin, armpits, and scalp. In most cases, the tick is attached for 36 to 48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted.
Most people are infected through the bites of immature ticks, called nymphs. Nymphs are tiny (less than 2 mm) and difficult to see; they feed during the spring and summer months.
Adult ticks also transmit Lyme disease but are much larger and are more likely to be removed before they have had time to transmit the bacteria. Adult deer ticks are most active during the cooler months of the year.
Ticks not known to transmit Lyme disease include Lone Star ticks, the American dog tick, the Rocky Mountain wood tick, and the brown dog tick.
How do I limit my exposure to ticks?
Tick exposure can occur year-round, but ticks are most active during warmer months (April-September). Reducing exposure to ticks is the best defense against Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and other tick-borne infections. You and your family can take several steps to prevent and control Lyme disease.
Before you go outdoors, know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or even on animals. Spending time outside walking your dog, camping, gardening, or hunting could bring you in close contact with ticks.
Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin. Permethrin is used to treat boots, clothing, and camping gear, and will remain protective through several washings. There are many insect repellents—some natural—that can help you combat your exposure to ticks. Always follow the product instructions. Use some precautions when using insect repellent. Do not use on babies younger than two months old, do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under three years old, try to avoid contact with ticks by staying away from brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter, and stay on well groomed trails when walking or hiking outdoors.
Once indoors, check your clothing for ticks. Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, consider a longer dry time. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is best, as cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks.
Examine your gear and pets. Ticks ride into the home on clothing and pets.
Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors is shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tick-borne diseases. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.
Conduct a full body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas, including your own backyard. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Check these parts of your body and your child’s body for ticks: under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, back of the knees, in and around the hair, between the legs, and around your waist.
How do I prevent ticks from getting on my pet?
Dogs are very susceptible to tick bites and tick-borne diseases. Vaccines are not available for most of the tick-borne diseases that dogs can get, and they don’t keep the dogs from bringing ticks into your home. For these reasons, it is suggested that you use a tick preventive product on your dog.
Tick bites on dogs may be hard to detect. Signs of tick-borne disease may not appear for 7 to 21 days or longer after a tick bite, so watch your dog closely for changes in behavior or appetite if you suspect that your pet has been bitten by a tick. Ask your veterinarian about the best tick prevention products for your dog.
Note that cats are extremely sensitive to a variety of chemicals. Do not apply any tick prevention products to your cats without first asking your veterinarian.
In September 2018, the FDA put out a warning about “Potential Adverse Events associated with Isoxazoline Flea and Tick Products.” For additional information, please talk to your veterinarian.
How do I prevent ticks in my yard?
Here are some simple landscaping techniques that can help reduce tick populations. Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns. Place a 3-foot-wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas and around patios and play equipment. This will restrict tick migration into recreational areas.
Mow the lawn frequently and keep leaves raked. Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (discourages rodents that ticks feed on). Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees, and place them in a sunny location, if possible.
Do you think you may have Lyme disease?
Are you struggling with some of the symptoms mentioned in the article? Call the Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center at 240-651-1650 for a free screening. Dr. Lo uses Nutritional Response Testing® to analyze the body to determine the underlying causes of ill or non-optimum health. We hold free seminars at the office on rotating Tuesdays and Thursdays. The office is located at 7310 Grove Road #107, Frederick, MD. Check out the website at www.doctorlo.com.