While the majority of tick bites will cause little more than some redness and irritation, others may lead to an infection known as Lyme disease, a condition that may be easily treated when caught early but can lead to serious problems if ignored.
It's believed that this summer may be a particularly bad time for Lyme disease infections, due to a mild winter in many regions of the country. As such, it's a good idea to be well-versed in prevention and early symptoms of the condition.
Prevention is the best medicine
First, you should know when and where you stand the highest chance of getting Lyme disease. Spring and early summer are the times when ticks usually start coming out of winter hiding, and they're likely to be hungry once they do so. These little arachnids also love humid weather.
Ticks usually live in wooded areas where there are lots of leaves they can hide under. Their tactic is to creep around the leaf litter, waiting for squirrels, chipmunks or even the family cat or dog to latch onto.
The most common regions for Lyme disease infection include the Northeast United States (from Maine to Virginia), central states (Wisconsin to Minnesota) and Northern California.
In addition to being aware of your surroundings when in these high-risk conditions and regions, you may also consider wearing long pants and socks when outside and checking yourself, others and pets after an outing. Bug repellant is often helpful in keeping ticks at bay.
What does Lyme disease look like?
In rare cases, Lyme disease will present few to no symptoms. The condition's trademark is a six-inch rash (on average) that resembles a bull's-eye pattern. Additionally, Lyme disease may cause widespread itching, chills, fever, illness, headache, fainting, muscle pain and a stiff neck.
If any of these symptoms appear, it's important to seek medical attention. When diagnosed early, Lyme disease can be treated or cured with antibiotics. However, if it progresses, it may reach the more serious secondary or tertiary stages.
Signs of stage two Lyme disease include weakness in the facial muscles, paralysis, pain or swelling in the large joints or heart problems. The symptoms of advanced stage three Lyme disease are abnormal muscle movement, weakness, numbness, tingling and speech problems.