Will That Tick Leave a Lasting Impression?
Getting a firm diagnosis for Lyme disease, an infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, can take two to five weeks. While you’re waiting for the results of the blood test, which measures the body’s immune response to the bacterium, the disease can get a foothold.
Fortunately, infectious disease specialists are working to develop more sensitive tests to detect, treat, and prevent Lyme disease earlier and avoid serious illness and potential complications.
Take these steps to protect yourself from infected ticks, which transmit the illness. Prevention is key, especially in the summer and early fall, when ticks are most active.
- Avoid wooded, brushy, and grassy areas. If you’re walking or working where infected ticks often lurk, wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Tuck your pant legs into your shoes or socks. On hikes, walk in the center of the trail, away from the dried leaves, brush, and foliage. For added protection, use DEET repellent according to packaging directions.
- Do a body check for ticks after spending time outside. Ticks are often found in hard-to-see places. Use your fingers to carefully go over your scalp, where ticks are difficult to detect because of your hair. Check your kids, too.
- Use a tick collar on pets and check them often. Cats and dogs can bring infected ticks into your home.
What should I do if I’m bitten by a tick?
Remove the tick as soon as you see it. Your chances of getting Lyme disease are reduced if you remove the tick within 24 hours of being bitten. Using clean tweezers, pinch the tick as close to your skin as possible. Pull straight up. If you twist or jerk, the mouth parts of the tick can stay embedded in your skin. If that happens, use tweezers to remove mouth parts. Then, wash the area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Note the date on your calendar and where you think you might have acquired the tick. See your doctor if you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing the tick.
A “bull’s-eye rash” occurs in approximately 70 to 80 percent of those infected, and begins at the site of a tick bite after a delay of anywhere from three to 30 days (average is about seven days). The rash gradually expands over a period of several days, and can reach up to 12 inches across. Parts of the rash may clear as it enlarges, resulting in a “bull’s-eye” appearance; it usually feels warm to the touch but is rarely itchy or painful.
Important Research Efforts
Did you know that Western Connecticut Health Network is contributing to Lyme disease research? Through our Lyme Disease Biobank, we’re supporting efforts to improve diagnosis and treatment of this disease. Learn more here.