Avoiding Lyme and West Nile This Summer

Ticks

Do your summer plans involve hitting the great outdoors? If so, don’t forget to bring along your insect-fighting toolkit: a good repellent, tweezers, and a sharp eye. Ticks and mosquitoes are the most common insects we will encounter this season and they transmit plenty of diseases, including Lyme disease and West Nile virus, the two most prevalent bug-borne diseases in the U.S.

Lyme disease is number one.

Lyme disease is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks. It is the number one bug-borne disease in North America. Of all the many things transmitted by insects, Lyme disease is the most prevalent.

What are some of the symptoms of Lyme disease?

A small red dot often appears at the site of a tick bite. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve been infected, but if that small red dot gets bigger and bigger (almost representative of a target), it is possible that you have been infected. If you see this circular rash, and it’s a concern, get to your doctor right away. Other typical symptoms of Lyme disease are fever, joint pain, body aches, or just not feeling well.

What should you do if you find a tick on your body?

So, you’re back from an outdoor adventure and it’s time to clean up. Before taking a shower, check your clothes carefully. Then do a full body check. Don’t forget to check those hard to see areas like your back and scalp. If you find a tick stuck in your skin, remove it as soon as possible. The best way to remove this unwanted passenger is to take fine-tip tweezers, get ahold of the tick as close to your skin as possible, and pull it out smoothly. Be sure not to twist it or squish it as the insides of the damaged tick may end up in your system and increase the risk of infection. Removing the tick carefully and as soon as possible will greatly reduce the likelihood of becoming infected with Lyme disease. Ticks generally need to feed on you for 36 hours or more to transmit the bacteria for Lyme disease. If you and the tick are really swollen, place the tick in a plastic bag and take it with you to your doctor.

Mosquitoes and West Nile virus.

West Nile virus is found throughout the U.S. during mosquito season, which starts in the summer and continues through fall. A good repellent should always be used to help keep those pesky mosquitoes away. West Nile is not as severe as people seem to think, although it could be for a small percentage of individuals. The reality is most people don’t even know they’ve been infected, or they get very mild symptoms. A more severe infection of West Nile virus affects about 10% of people. The virus can attack the brain and cause severe damage, including partial paralysis and even death in some cases. But that severity occurs in less than 1% of the people infected.

What are the mild symptoms of West Nile?

West Nile symptoms are similar to the flu and include fever with body aches and headache. You may also get a rash that seems to travel across your skin. Not to worry, most often the symptoms, including the rash, will go away on their own and you’ll be back to feeling great in no time. However, if the symptoms appear to be worsening or persistent, contact your doctor immediately.