Safety: Lyme disease

Lyme disease (transmitted by the bite of a tick) is caused by a spirochete, a corkscrew-shaped bacterium which can travel through the bloodstream. The disease is easily diagnosed and treatable in an overwhelming majority of cases.

Early symptoms of Lyme disease can be mild and easily overlooked. A reddish rash called erythema migrans occurs 60 to 80 percent of the time, most often at the site of the bite. Flu-like symptoms, chills, fever and fatigue are often experienced but they may not seem serious enough to require medical attention. Later symptoms may include severe headaches, arthritis and nervous system or cardiac abnormalities.

Because it takes 24 to 48 hours for a feeding tick to transmit the Lyme disease bacteria, examine yourself and your children while outdoors, when you get home, and again at night. As it takes several hours for a tick to attach itself to your body taking a shower with a washcloth will help wash loose ones off. If you find an attached tick, use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible, and pull outward gently but firmly. Mouth parts of adult ticks may sometimes remain in your skin, but these will not cause Lyme disease. After removal, apply an antiseptic such as alcohol or an antibiotic ointment. Do not apply mineral oil, petroleum jelly, heat, or anything else to remove the tick. Redness at the site of a tick bite does not mean you are infected - a true Lyme disease rash usually lasts 2-3 weeks and often increases in size during that time.

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