/ Articles / Fight the bite — Know the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease

Fight the bite — Know the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease

July 16, 2019

Ticks are typically most active in Wisconsin from May to September, but it is still important to use caution year-round.

Black-legged or deer ticks can harbor the Powassan virus along with disease-causing bacteria such as Lyme disease, babesiosis, anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis.

In rare cases, Wisconsin wood or dog ticks can cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever and typhus, tularemia and tick paralysis.

“In Wisconsin, Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness,” said Colleen Fraley, APNP, a nurse practitioner with Ascension Medical Group at Woodruff. “The symptoms of Lyme disease can appear in just three days, or they may take as long as 30 days after a tick bite to develop.”

A rash, which often appears one week after a tick bite, occurs in 50-70% of patients. It is the most recognizable sign of Lyme disease.

“As the area of the rash gets larger, it may begin to resemble a bull’s eye,” Fraley said.

In addition to the rash, a person suffering from Lyme disease may experience other symptoms in the first month including:

• Fever

• Chills

• Headache

• Fatigue

• Muscle aches

• Joint pain

• Swollen lymph nodes

“It’s important to treat Lyme disease as soon as possible after the bite,” Fraley said. “Left untreated symptoms become more serious as the bacteria starts to affect the nervous system. It can become difficult to treat.”

At later stages, Lyme disease can cause headaches, arthritis-like pain, stiff neck, loss of muscle tone, irregular heartbeat, dizziness, shortness of breath, shooting pain, numbness and short-term memory problems.

A simple blood test can detect Lyme disease.  

“If you spend time outside and experience achy muscles and sore joints, ask your primary care clinician for a Lyme disease blood test,” Fraley added.

Fraley said it’s important to check for ticks daily after being outdoors, even in your own yard. Check all parts of your body carefully, including armpits, scalp, and groin. Remove ticks immediately using fine-tipped tweezers.

You can also take some steps to Create a tick-safe zone around your home.

Remove leaf litter and clear grasses and brush around your home and the edge of the lawn, and place mulch between lawns and wooded areas to keep ticks off the places you work and play the most. Also check for and repair holes in window and door screens.

Avoiding ticks doesn’t mean that you have to stay inside, in front of the TV.

“Work and play outside but remember to apply an effective repellent to exposed skin and wear long-sleeve shirts, long pants, and socks to keep bugs off your skin,” Fraley said.

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