Lyme disease, also known as Borrelia burgdorferi, is a bacteria that is transmitted into your body from a tick bite. While Lyme disease cases are most common in the mid-Atlantic states, New England and the upper Midwest, more and more cases have been popping up in Ohio this year.
Particularly in the Youngstown, Ohio area, there are lots of deer ticks around this year. Frank Migliore, DO, a rheumatologist with our ministry, sees patients when they have a disease that is causing pain by impacting their musculoskeletal system, like Lyme disease.
Dr. Migliore believes this year’s increase in deer ticks as well as Lyme disease cases is tied to the increase in the Youngstown area’s deer population.
“Deer ticks are most active certainly during the summer, and wooded areas is typically where they’re most prevalent,” he shares. “Actually, a lot of times, when we diagnose patients with Lyme disease, the patient never actually sees the tick. When the adult deer ticks bite, you can see because they’re bigger. So, the young deer ticks called nymph ticks, because they’re small, a lot of times that’s what transmits Lyme disease, because you never see them because there’s so little.”
It is really important to catch Lyme disease early on. This is because, when left untreated, this disease can go on to cause serious neurological issues as well as electrical issues in the heart and inflammatory arthritis.
“Sometimes we will see a target rash or a bullseye rash – that’s a lot of times the common presenting symptom,” Dr. Miglioresays about Lyme disease. “However, not everyone gets that. There could also be early localized infection, which usually happens shortly after a tick bite. Other symptoms, like fever, fatigue, muscle aches, joint aches, those sorts of things can happen too.”
He adds that sometimes symptoms from tick bites come up months, or even years, afterwards.
“So, even though we think of the summer as tick season, if you have symptoms in the winter that doesn’t mean that it can’t be from Lyme disease or a tick bite. It may have occurred in the summer, and you’re just kind of now having the manifestations.”
Overall, the best way to avoid Lyme disease is to take preventative measures to avoid tick bites.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics, you can help prevent tick bites by:
- Applying insect repellant to children over two months of age. To avoid getting repellant in eyes, mouth or on hands, always assist children in applying repellant and keep chemicals in a safe location.
- Dressing in long pants, closed shoes, long sleeves and a broad-brimmed hat. Consider pre-treating clothing or camping gear with permethrin if going in a high-risk area.
- Avoiding areas with tall grasses, leaf litter and deep woods.
Additionally, after spending a day outside, checking your body, as well as your child’s skin, for ticks.
“It is important to note that ticks do sometimes try to hide in sensitive areas,” Dr. Miglioresays. “Even when you’re outside, if you get a tick and it gets on your arm or your leg, a lot of times they will crawl around a little bit to find a softer spot before they actually bite you.”
And if you do find a tick, don’t panic!
First, remove the tick with either tweezers or clean hands covered with a tissue. Grasp the tick as close the skin as possible and pull with steady straight movement. Then, place the tick in tape or a sealed container to keep for showing to a medical provider.
“If you see a tick, you absolutely want to get checked out there,” Dr. Miglioreadds. “It’s good if you can get into your primary care provider early, or an urgent care, because if we catch that early, a lot of times, we can give you a just a single dose of doxycycline and that will kind of nip it in the bud and prevent it from progressing.”
It is important to note that if the tick is removed within the first 36 hours, the risk of Lyme disease is very low. However, it is still important to get checked out by a medical professional as well as to monitor the site of bite for 30 days following removal. If rash, fever or other flu-like symptoms develop, seek medical care right way.
Learn more about the rheumatology services we provide at Mercy Health.