Lyme Disease, Deer Ticks, and Your Family

Style Magazine Newswire | 5/10/2018, 11:15 a.m.
It’s that time of the year once again, when you and your family are enjoying the warmer weather and all ...
Robert Oley

Robert Oley, PE, MSPH, Public Health Consultant, www.boboley.com)

It’s that time of the year once again, when you and your family are enjoying the warmer weather and all the outdoor activities that come with it. Unfortunately for you, deer ticks are also taking advantage of the nice weather, and are waiting for you as you step outside.

The spring and summer months are when you are most likely to be bitten by a deer tick, and become infected with Lyme disease. The highest risk age group for contracting Lyme disease is children. Not only do they tend to spend more time outside than others, but they are less likely to be careful about where they play. Although Lyme disease is a grave health risk to these and other family members, there are other equally debilitating tick-borne diseases one can also become infected with such as babesiosis, anaplasmosis, bartonella, tularemia, mycoplasma, tick paralysis, and viruses.

LITTLE BUG BIG PROBLEMS

How can such a small bug cause such big problems for all of us? Ticks are parasites, which survive by feeding on the blood of hosts such as mice, chipmunks, shrews, birds, squirrels, opossum, rabbits, lizards, and deer. Regrettably, they also feed on people and their pets. Although the deer tick season is pretty much year round now, the peak of the deer tick’s activity starts in May and begins to wind down in August. During this time, the nymphal deer tick (about as small as a poppy seed) is actively looking for a host. And it will be from the nymphal deer tick-bite that you and your children will most likely contract Lyme disease and/or another tick-borne co-infection.

Deer ticks require a humid environment to survive and can be found anywhere their hosts live. Thus they can be encountered in a variety of settings including woodlands, as well as leaf litter, brush piles, your lawn, ground cover (pachysandra, etc.) and gardens. They can also be found near old stonewalls, woodpiles, tree stumps and fallen logs, bird feeders, and storage sheds, anywhere their hosts feed and/or make their nests. They have even been found on park picnic tables and benches.

LYME DISEASE SYMPTOMS

There are over 100 possible symptoms associated with Lyme disease, and that is one of the reasons why it is so very difficult to diagnose—it mimics so many other disease conditions that it is usually not diagnosed early on in the disease, allowing it to spread to most every part of the body.

Soon after a tick bite, you or your children may get a rash, and have vague flu-like symptoms including fever, headache, sore throat, fatigue, muscle ache, stiff neck, and swollen lymph nodes. Other more serious conditions can affect your brain and nervous system, heart, muscles and joints, bones, and skin. Not uncommon are extreme fatigue, joint and muscle pain, chronic headaches, sleep disturbances, allergies, stomach pain, ear ringing, blurred vision, sensitivity to sounds and smells, facial numbness and tingling, mood swings, anxiety, panic attacks, memory impairment, and lack of concentration.