This year seems to have been a particularly strange one for weather in Southeast Texas. Recent weather activity has a bearing on the amount of insect activity we’ll see in the upcoming months. From having virtually no winter at all to torrential downpours and flooding, our hot, humid summer might prove to be the prime ingredient for a season full of bugs. One insect you need to pay attention to? Ticks. They transmit Lyme disease and that’s nothing to take lightly.
What You Might Not Know
You’re probably familiar with Lyme disease. Most people know that it’s transmitted by ticks and that it can spread to parts of your body, causing fatigue, fever, headache and, in a lot of cases, a rash. But there are lesser known facts about Lyme disease that might impress upon you how important it is to steer clear of ticks if you can this season:
- It’s caused by a bacteria – Lyme disease is a bacteria transmitted from the blacklegged tick, or deer tick, to humans.
- Lyme disease occurs in all 48 of the connected United States – but if you’re in Alaska or Hawaii, you’re in luck.
- If not treated, Lyme disease can be serious. The bacteria can spread and begin to affect all your organs, like your brain and heart. In some cases, Lyme disease can be fatal if left untreated. The good news is, if caught early enough, it can be treated with antibiotics.
- Lyme disease can be hard to diagnose in humans. This is because the symptoms are shared by many other maladies, and the biggest telltale sign – the rash – doesn’t occur in all cases. If you’ve been in an area that has ticks, be sure to tell your doctor.
Avoid Ticks if You Can
The best way to avoid Lyme disease is to protect yourself if you’re in an area where ticks are common – especially in high grass or in the woods. If being in an area where you might encounter ticks is unavoidable, lessen the possibility that you might come into contact with one:
- Wear insect repellant with a high percentage of DEET to help protect you.
- Do not let any of your skin be exposed. This means tucking pants into your socks and wearing a long-sleeved shirt. While this may be uncomfortable, it won’t be as uncomfortable as having Lyme disease.
- Wear light colored clothing so that you can easily see if there are ticks on you.
- When you get home, do a full-body check for insects. Look in places like the backs of your knees, where your elbows bend, in armpits, belly buttons, in your hair and groin area.
- Take a shower immediately to try and wash off anything you may have missed.
When to See a Doctor
Even with all of the precautions you take it is still possible to miss a tick. If you’ve recently been in the woods and feeling fatigued, have a fever, are suffering from headaches or have a rash, see your doctor immediately and be sure to mention you’ve been outside. Remember, the sooner your doctor can diagnose Lyme disease the easier it will be to fight it.
Dr. Benafsha Irani is a board-certified Family Medicine physician who cares for patients at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic – Clear Lake. Her interests include adult medicine, children’s health, women’s health and preventive medicine.