In certain parts of the United States Lyme disease can be a real problem. Fortunately in Nebraska the incidence is low. But if you are traveling to the upper Midwest or the Northeast then please take precautions when outdoors. Lyme disease is caused by the bite of a deer tick which transmits an organism that causes infection.
The first stage of infection consists of a rash which appears at the site of the bite between 3 and 30 days afterwards. The classic appearance of the rash is that of a bull’s eye, meaning a red bump, with a red circle surrounding it. Flu-like symptoms may also occur. The rash eventually goes away, but if left untreated Lyme disease can progress to involve joints, the nervous system, and the heart.
Lyme disease can be effectively treated with antibiotics if it is caught early. Prevention of tick bite is highly recommended. Wear long pants and consider treating clothing with permethrin which can kill ticks on contact. DEET can repel ticks but is not as effective as permethrin treated clothing.
If a tick is attached to the skin remove it with tweezers applied close to the skin so as to remove the entire tick. Then wash the bite area and your hands thoroughly. If the tick was attached for less than 36 hours, then transmission of Lyme disease is not likely.
Written by Margaret Kontras Sutton, M.D.