Time is Key When Stopping Lyme Disease in its Tracks

Ticks must be attached to body for 24 hours before bacteria is transmitted

DAYTON, Ohio (June 11, 2018) – A tick attached to a person’s skin doesn’t always translate into an automatic diagnosis of Lyme disease.

The chances a person will get Lyme disease from a single tick bite depends on the type of tick, where they acquired it and how long it had been attached to their skin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Lyme disease – which is caused by the bacteria transmitted through a tick bite – requires several different factors to be present.

“Timing is everything,” said Mansi Amin, DO, with Oakwood Primary Care. “First, you’ll want to think back as to when you were in an area that would have picked up the tick. Then you’ll want to investigate what type of tick it is.”

Only blacklegged ticks located in areas of the northeastern and north central United States, where Ohio is located, transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. The amount of time a tick has been attached to a person is also vital. A tick needs to be attached for at least 24 hours before it can transmit the disease, the CDC said.

“For this reason, it is extremely important that people are vigilant when enjoying the outdoors, especially in areas where the disease is most prevalent,” said Dr. Amin, who practices with Premier Physician Network. “If you have been hiking, for instance, take special care to shower after you return and ask a friend or family member to help you look for ticks on your body, and even in your hair where ticks may be out of sight.”

Be aware of symptoms that come with Lyme disease and be watchful during the days that follow. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. The infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system if it is left untreated. 

The treatment used depends on the stage of the disease. Stage one is when the infection is localized. This is characterized by the bull’s eye-like rash. An infection caught during this stage can be treated with oral antibiotics over 10 to 21 days. Stage two may mean Bell’s palsy or heart symptoms. Lyme disease that progresses beyond that point may mean neurological problems. This usually requires IV antibiotics for 21 days.

The best way to avoid Lyme disease is to minimize your exposure to ticks and their infectious bites. The CDC suggests taking these three specific steps to reduce your risk for a tick bite:

Don’t associate with ticks – Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. Be mindful to stay on trails when hiking through the woods.

Don’t send an invitation – The type of clothing you wear can lay a welcome mat to ticks that come across your path. Wear clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible and consider treating that clothing with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin. Spray uncovered skin with repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin or IR3535.

Tell them to bug off – Shower within two hours of coming indoors to wash off ticks crawling on you or to help you find them. Conduct a full-body tick check including areas such as ears, belly buttons and hair. Tumble dry clothes on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks after coming indoors. 

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