Preventing Lyme Disease

By Tai Takatani

They say that every rose has its thorn. That may or may not actually be true, but the saying seems to apply when considering the beauty of wooded and bushy areas. Though many of us enjoy the wonders of nature, being surrounded by trees, the fresh air and all the other beauty that comes with it, being outside does have its thorn ” a tick that carries disease.

A tick is a blood-sucking parasite (think of it as a mite) that normally lives on the blood of large animals such as deer. Unfortunately, ticks also attach to humans. Ticks transmit the widest variety of pathogens of any blood-sucking arthropod, including bacteria, rickettsiae, protozoa and viruses. Contracting Lyme disease is one of many threats of being bitten by a tick.

Lyme disease is more of a threat in the upper Midwest, northeastern coast and northern California. But, regardless of where you live, if there are ticks, then Lyme disease is a potential risk. The disease is not fatal, but it does pose serious health problems such as arthritis, muscle and joint pains, neurological problems, cognitive defects or fatigue if left untreated.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by being bitten by a tick carrying Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium. According to Jennifer Morcone, spokeswoman for the Center of Disease Control (CDC), “Lyme-disease cases are increasing. Incidences of the disease are on the rise in part because of the increase in the deer and tick population.” The latest statistics from the CDC clearly show an upswing in reported Lyme disease cases from the years 1994 to 2003.

Recognizing symptoms of Lyme disease is important so that treatment can begin as early as possible. The initial symptoms include a circular rash that looks like a bull’s-eye as well as fatigue, chills, fever, headaches, joint and muscular aches and swollen lymph nodes. If left untreated for several months, some people develop symptoms of arthritis ” often in the knees. About five percent of people eventually develop neurological problems such as memory problems or tingling in the hands or feet. Fortunately, most cases of Lyme disease can be cured with the use of antibiotics if the treatment is started early enough. If you suspect that you may have Lyme disease, it is imperative that you go to a doctor right away. Early treatment increases the likelihood that the antibiotic will be successful.

Although antibiotics can fight Lyme disease effectively, Jennifer Morcone from the CDC strongly urges prevention and reducing exposure to ticks. Avoid high grass and bushy areas where ticks tend to be waiting for prey. If you must go into such areas, wear light-colored long pants tucked into your socks with a light-colored long-sleeve shirt, also tucked in. Long sleeves and pants tucked inside socks provide protection from tick bites and the light-colored clothing helps you spot ticks that have landed on you. After spending time in wooded areas, check your body thoroughly ” clothes and skin ” for ticks. All clothing should be immediately laundered in hot water and then placed in the dryer. Also, ticks are most active in late spring and early summer, but they can be active even in winter, especially when the temperature reaches 40 degrees.

Other steps that can be taken to avoid contracting Lyme disease include designing the landscaping of your home to minimize humid wooded areas. Most ticks cannot live in dry and sunny environments. Simply keeping your lawn mowed and clear of leaf litter will create an inhospitable environment for ticks. In addition, creating a buffer zone by laying down gravel between the lawn and wooded areas will reduce the migration of ticks from the wooded areas into the lawn area. Because deer carry ticks that transmit Lyme disease, do not encourage deer onto your property by feeding them. (You may also choose to remove bird feeders in your yard because they can attract deer.) You may even consider constructing a barrier to prevent deer from entering your yard in the first place.

Though Lyme disease is an increasingly serious threat, there is much you can do to avoid becoming a victim. By educating yourself about Lyme disease and practicing simple preventative measures, you can minimize this threat to your wellbeing. A good place to start to learn more is the Center for Disease Control’s official website www.cdc.gov.

About the author

Tai Takatani is a freelance writer and a manager/ nutritional consultant at Healthy Approach vitamin store in Great Neck, NY. He holds an MBA from Hofstra University and is being trained in nutrition and as a personal trainer.

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2 Responses to “Preventing Lyme Disease”

  1. [...] Preventing Lyme Disease [...]

  2. [...] Dee wrote a fantastic post today on “Preventing Lyme Disease”Here’s ONLY a quick extractThough many of us enjoy the wonders of nature, being surrounded by trees, the fresh air and all the other beauty that comes with it, being outside does have its thorn ” a tick that carries disease. [...]

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