Lyme Disease: Signs, Symptoms & Prevention

July 17, 2023

The tick-borne illness Lyme disease has become a significant health concern in Maryland. With case numbers on the rise, residents should take preventative measures to reduce exposure risk when spending time in areas where ticks are prevalent, such as wooded and grassy areas. Knowing the signs and symptoms can also help facilitate early detection and appropriate treatment.

Recognizing the Signs & Symptoms

The following symptoms may appear as early as 3 to 30 days after a tick bite and may increase in severity over time:

  1. Erythema migrans (EM) rash: The hallmark of Lyme disease, an EM rash often appears as a red bullseye or target-like rash at the site of the tick bite. However, it’s important to note that not all Lyme disease cases exhibit this rash.
  2. Flu-like symptoms: Fever, fatigue, headache, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes are common symptoms that resemble those of the flu. If these symptoms occur after a tick bite or exposure to tick-prone areas, contact your physician as soon as possible.
  3. Neurological and cardiac symptoms: In rare cases, Lyme disease can lead to more severe symptoms affecting the nervous system and heart. These may include facial paralysis, memory problems, heart palpitations, dizziness, and shortness of breath. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek emergency medical assistance.

Prevention Steps

The following preventive measures can help you minimize your risk of contracting Lyme Disease:

  • Dress appropriately. While outdoors, wear long sleeves, long pants, and closed-toe shoes. Tuck pants into socks and shirts into pants to create a barrier. Opt for light-colored clothing to spot ticks more easily.
  • Use insect repellent. Apply an EPA-registered insect repellent containing at least 20% DEET on exposed skin. Follow the instructions for safe and effective use.
  • Conduct regular tick checks. In most cases, a tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted. After outdoor activities, inspect your body for ticks, paying close attention to areas like the scalp, armpits, groin, and behind the knees. Promptly remove any attached ticks using fine-tipped tweezers.
  • Modify your landscape. Create a tick-safe environment around your home by keeping grass trimmed, removing leaf litter, and clearing tall vegetation.
  • Protect your pets. Ticks can easily latch onto pets and bring them indoors. Regularly check and treat your pets for ticks, and consult with your veterinarian about appropriate tick prevention measures.
  • Seek medical attention. If you experience any symptoms or suspect a tick bite, consult a healthcare professional. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial in managing Lyme disease effectively.

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