Northern Virginia's Inova Health System offers the following advice for avoidng Lyme disease:
Beautiful weather and outdoor summer activities go hand in hand, but can expose people and their pets to Lyme disease – an infection caused by bacteria from ticks resulting in hundreds of thousands of people becoming sick every year. Illness causing bacteria is transmitted from the bite of an infected blacklegged tick, commonly called the deer tick or the western black leggedtick.
The most common tick-borne infection in the United States, Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose since many non-specific symptoms also occur in other diseases. “An important first symptom in diagnosing Lyme disease is a round or oval rash that enlarges in size over days or weeks that may be accompanied by flu-like symptoms,” states Inova Family Medicine Physician, Jocelyn Serrano, MD. She cautions, “Children are especially vulnerable, particularly between the ages of 5 and 14, so parents should check for ticks after exposure to high-risk areas such as woods and tall grass areas.”
Symptoms may also include chest pain, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, nausea, vomiting, changes in bowel function, joint or muscle pain and fever sweats or chills. Weight change, fatigue, sore throat, difficulty swallowing and neurological issues such as twitching, numbness and facial paralysis are also associated with Lyme disease. If you suspect a rash greater than two inches in diameter may be the result of an infected tick bite, consult your physician for a complete check and screening
To reduce your risk of contracting Lyme disease:
- Stay out of tall grass and un-cleared areas of the forest floor.
- Don’t crawl or roll in leaves.
- Low risk areas include athletic fields and cut lawns.
- Inspect the entire body daily for ticks, common attachment sites are underarms, navel, groin and buttocks.
- Shower daily.
- Use an EPA registered insect repellent.
- Wear protective clothing such as long sleeves, pants tucked into socks and shoes – avoid going barefoot or wearing open-toe sandals/shoes in exposure areas.
For more information about ticks and the diseases they carry, visit alexandriava.gov.