Don’t let a tick get you sick with Lyme dis­ease

The Kutztown Area Patriot - - LOCAL NEWS - By Mike Zielin­ski Colum­nist

When I was a kid, I loved to play in the woods. My bud­dies and I were all over Mount Penn, play­ing war games, build­ing tree forts, hik­ing, scal­ing rocks, hid­ing out from our par­ents.

Who knew then that ticks, those nasty lit­tle crit­ters, would some­day make the woods a dan­ger­ous place for kids to hang out?

Back in the day, I thought lime was for lin­ing base­ball fields. I had never heard of Lyme dis­ease.

Lyme dis­ease to­day has hi­jacked Penn­syl­va­nia. Penn­syl­va­nia is one of the worst states for Lyme. It is a prob­lem of com­pelling sever­ity.

Our ticks must be par­tic­u­larly pro­lific blood suck­ers. There seems to be no limit to their do­min­ion. They tar­get us like a starv­ing wolf track­ing a pork chop. They are ab­so­lutely, in­de­fati­ga­bly re­lent­less.

If you go out­doors to­day, you should al­most be lay­ered in sheet metal be­cause you are putting your­self squarely in the crosshairs. It’s akin to be­ing dipped in seal but­ter and be­ing dropped into a po­lar bear’s cage.

Lyme dis­ease can be bad enough to curl an ex­e­cu­tioner’s toes.

It is caused by the bac­terium Bor­re­lia burgdor­feri and is of­ten trans­mit­ted through the bite of an in­fected black­legged tick, also known as a deer tick.

Ticks typ­i­cally get the bac­terium by bit­ing in­fected an­i­mals, like deer and mice. Ticks who don’t cook or or­der take out, feed off other an­i­mals or peo­ple. In the process of suck­ing blood, they trans­mit dis­ease.

Lyme symp­toms in­clude fever, fa­tigue, headache, mus­cle aches, joint pain, a bull’s eye rash may ap­pear, and other symp­toms that can be mis­taken for vi­ral in­fec­tions, such as in­fluenza or in­fec­tious mononu­cle­o­sis.

Joint pain can be mis­taken for other types of arthri­tis, such as ju­ve­nile rheuma­toid arthri­tis (JRA), and neu­ro­logic signs of Lyme dis­ease can mimic those caused by other con­di­tions, such as mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis (MS) and amy­otrophic lat­eral scle­ro­sis (ALS).

When de­tected early, Lyme dis­ease can be treated with an­tibi­otics. Left un­treated, the dis­ease can spread to the joints, heart and ner­vous sys­tem.

Early di­ag­no­sis is im­por­tant in pre­vent­ing lat­estage com­pli­ca­tions. Clas­sic signs of un­treated cases can in­clude mi­gra­tory pain or arthri­tis, impaired mo­tor and sen­sory skills and an en­larged heart.

Most peo­ple who con­tract Lyme get it from nymphal ticks, the im­ma­ture ones. Be­cause nymphs are as small as poppy seeds and their bite is pain­less, many peo­ple don’t no­tice or re­move them.

An ex­cel­lent way to pro­tect your­self is to wear in­sect-re­pel­lent cloth­ing. The fab­ric has been treated with a spe­cial process that binds per­me­thrin (a re­pel­lent) to the fibers.

It’s im­por­tant to pro­tect your feet, since nymphal ticks are of­ten on the ground.

You should also ap­ply in­sect re­pel­lent to ex­posed skin. Re­pel­lents that in­clude DEET, pi­caridin or le­mon eu­ca­lyp­tus oil are most ef­fec­tive.

While in the field, check your­self pe­ri­od­i­cally for ticks. Use fine-tipped tweez­ers to re­move any em­bed­ded ticks you may find.

When you come in for the day, you should do two things: Run all your cloth­ing through a hot dryer for at least 10 min­utes, which will kill any live ticks that might be present in your cloth­ing. Then take a shower and thor­oughly check your en­tire body.

Bet­ter yet, stay in­doors all the time and read a good book.

A deer tick.

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