Lyme Disease Facts and Symptoms | How to Spot the Signs

Jessica Lewis
August 14, 2016

How can someone get Lyme disease?

People can get the Lyme disease through the bite of infected black-legged ticks. These ticks contain the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium.

After they get infected, people experience these symptoms: headaches, fever, fatigue, and a specific skin rash named erythema migrans. If they don’t go to the doctor to start taking a treatment, the infection can spread to the heart, the joints, and the nervous system. If you want to determine what caused these symptoms some laboratory testing can be done. It is the fastest way to see if you are infected or not.

If people go to the doctor in time, most cases of Lyme disease are treated quickly with antibiotics. Unfortunately, the ticks responsible for spreading the Lyme disease can transmit other diseases as well.

If you don’t treat the Lyme disease in time, you can have various symptoms. That depends on the stage of infection as well. Here are a few symptoms: facial paralysis, fever, arthritis, and rash.

It is important to go to the doctor if you have these symptoms, or you came back recently from an area where outbreaks of Lyme disease were reported.

Symptoms that occur between 3 and 30 days after you get infected:

  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Specific erythema migrans rash. Between 70% and 80% of infected persons have this rash and ou can expect to see this rash on your body after 7 days from the tick bite. This rash can expand quickly and it can reach 30 cm size. It’s not itchy or painful, but the affected area is usually warm and can appear on any area of the body.

Symptoms that occur days or months after the tick bite:

  • Neck stiffness and severe headaches
  • The distinct rash expands on other areas on the body
  • Severe joint pain and swelling in the knees and in other joints.
  • Facial paralysis
  • Specific pain in muscles, joints, tendons, and bones
  • Temporary dizziness and difficulty of breathing
  • Heart palpitations
  • Inflammation of the spinal cord and the brain
  • Nerve pain
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands and the legs
  • Issues with short-term memory

Can Lyme disease be treated?

Doctors usually manage to treat patients with antibiotics in the early stages of Lyme disease. Many of them recover quickly and completely.

These antibiotics are prescribed as oral treatment, and they can include cefuroxime axetil, doxycycline, and amoxicillin. Those people with neurological or cardiac dysfunction need special intravenous medication with penicillin or ceftriaxone.

How can someone prevent getting infected?

You might get infected if you live in an area exposed to Lyme disease, or you travel for the vacation in a zone affected by Lyme disease.

Here are a few recommendations on how to prevent getting infected with Lyme disease:

Avoid spending too much time in grassy or wooded areas. In the US, people who live in the Northeast and Midwest regions have high chances to get infected. Here you can find deer ticks. Children who play a lot outdoors in these areas have to be careful. Adults who work outside a lot need to be cautious as well.

In the first part of their life, deer ticks feed on mice and other rodents. These animals are the primary source where Lyme disease bacteria live. In their mature stage of life, deer ticks can be found in white-tailed deer.

When you spend time outdoors in the mentioned areas, make sure you don’t have exposed skin. Ticks can feed easily on bare flesh. You can prevent a tick bite if you wear long sleeves and long pants. Make sure your pets do not spend a lot of time in tall weeds and grasses.

If you notice a tick anywhere on your body, make sure to remove it as fast as possible. A bacterium from a tick bite is transmitted in your bloodstream if the tick is not detached from the skin in the first 36 hours. If you remove the tick in a few hours, the risk of getting ill with Lyme disease is reduced. Take a shower after you come indoors and examine your body of any unwanted attached ticks. Explore the child’s body in search of ticks and make sure to check inside the ears and belly button, his underarms, behind the knees, the abdomen, and the hair.

Make sure you verify your pets and gear as well. Ticks are brought from outside on clothing and pets. For your safety, tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to destroy any unfound tick.[1]

Other prevention measures against tick bite

Use DEET or Permethrin

Use repellents with 20 to 30% DEET on any part of your body with exposed skin. The protection can last up several hours. Make sure you follow product instructions. When you apply this product on children’s bodies, avoid spraying their hands, eyes, and mouth.

On clothing, you can use a product that contains permethrin. You can spray your boots, socks, pants, and tents with special repellents containing 0.5% permethrin. The gear is protected even after you wash it several times. You can also buy special equipment that has already been treated with specific substances against ticks.

Make sure you use a repellent on your dog as well. Tick bites on dogs are difficult to find. In dogs, signs of tickborne disease can appear in 7 days after the tick bite. Make sure you supervise the dog. If he is acting differently or loses the appetite it might be a sign of infection.

Here are a few recommendations on how to prevent your dog from being infected:

  • Ask the veterinarian about products you can use to protect your dog from tick bites.
  • When you find a tick on the dog, pull it from his fur fast.
  • Talk to your veterinarian to check the dog for ticks at each exam.
  • Check all of your pets for ticks on a daily basis, especially when they spend time playing outside in the garden.
  • Ask your veterinarian if any tickborne diseases were reported in your area.
  • Use special products to kill ticks from your yard.
  • Be cautious when you use chemicals, cats can be sensitive. Consult your veterinarian first.

How to kill ticks on dogs?

You can use a pesticide product called acaricide. These products can be found on the market. You can buy them as impregnated collars, sprays, powders, and topical treatments. Specific acaricides can destroy the tick on contact while others are absorbed into the bloodstream of a dog. They eventually kill all ticks that attach and feed.

These products can help you to reduce the number of ticks from your yard and to prevent the spreading of any tickborne disease. If the dog was bitten by a tick, he could develop a painful wound. He might also get infected with different diseases.

Active ingredients in tick repellents:

  • Pyrethroids
  • Fipronil
  • Amitraz

A pet will not suffer from tick bite if you use repellents. The chemicals contained in the repellent are strong and prevent tick bite.

Make sure your landscape is tick-free

You can have plants in your yard which are less attractive to ticks. The landscaping techniques that can help you reduce tick populations are:

  • Make sure to clear tall grasses and brush around homes
  • Mow the lawn as often as you can and collect fallen leaves
  • Create a 3 feet frontier of wood chips between lawns and wooded areas and around the area your kids are playing. This will keep tick at bay from recreational areas
  • Stack wood in a dry and protected area (you keep rodents that ticks feed on at distance)
  • Keep your yard clean; remove mattresses, old furniture, and trash. This way the ticks will not have a place to hide anymore
  • Place all recreational area in a sunny location

Apply pesticides outdoors to kill ticks

You can use acaricides to reduce the number of ticks in the yard. Spraying does not lessen the risk of infection.

Here are a few recommendations on how to do that:

  • Talk to local health officials about the best period to apply these products
  • Hire a professional pesticide company to do the job for you fast.
  • Make sure you know all the rules and regulations about pesticide application on residential properties

Is there a Lyme disease vaccine available?

Right now a Lyme disease vaccine is not available on the market or elsewhere. The vaccine manufacturer decided not to produce it anymore in 2002. The company said it did not have enough consumers.

The vaccine doesn’t offer immunity against Lyme disease for an undetermined period.

Tips for removing a tick:

  • If you find a tick attached to your skin, do not worry. You can find special tick removal devices on the market, but you can also use fine-tipped tweezers.
  • When you grasp the tick with the tweezers, do it as close to the skin as possible.
  • Make sure you pull the tick upward. Don’t twist the tick’s body; you risk to break off its mouth and to leave parts of the tick’s body still attached to the skin. Be careful and remove the mouth-parts as well.
  • After you detach the tick from your skin, disinfect the bite area and your hands with alcohol, scrub them with soap and water as well.
  • It is important to know that it is not recommended to crush a tick with your fingers. Get rid of it by submersing it in alcohol. Put it in a sealed bag or just flush it down the toilet.

Transmission of Lyme disease

Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium can spread through the bite of infected ticks. Ixodes scapularis can be found in the mid-Atlantic, northeastern, and north-central United States. Ixodes pacificus spreads the Lyme disease on the Pacific Coast.

Ticks can find their way to any part of the human body. The ticks hide in areas on the human body such as armpits, groin, and scalp.
Many people are infected through the bites of young ticks named nymphs. These ticks have less than 2 mm and you cannot see them. They can be found during the spring and summer months. Adult ticks transmit Lyme disease bacteria as well, but they are big enough for people to see them in time before they spread the bacteria. Adult ticks can be found during the cold months of the year.

Can a person get Lyme disease from a different source?

Doctors say that Lyme disease cannot be transmitted from person-to-person. A person cannot get infected from kissing, touching, or having sex with a person who has Lyme disease.

Pregnant women have to be extra careful. Lyme diseases during pregnancy can infect the placenta and; the fetus is safe as long as the mother is treated with antibiotics. The infants do not get the Lyme disease when they are breastfed.

We don’t know if Lyme disease can be transmitted through blood transfusion, but the Lyme disease bacteria can live in blood that is kept for donation. If you are treated for Lyme disease with an antibiotic avoid donating blood for a period. After you finish your treatment, you might be able to donate uninfected blood.

The cats and the dogs can get Lyme disease. Doctors say that there is no proof so far that they spread the disease to their owners as well.
People do not get Lyme disease when they consume venison or squirrel meat. It is important to cook meat very well.

There is no proof that Lyme disease is transmitted through food, water air, or from the bites of other insects.
Some species of ticks do not transmit the Lyme disease. These species are the American dog tick, the brown dog tick, lone star ticks, and the Rocky Mountain wood tick.[2]

Children with Lyme disease

Children who get Lyme disease deal with a lot of problems. Some of them who are very young, maybe too young to be able to communicate what it is wrong, they might experience mood swings. They can feel lost if parents or teachers are not able to understand they are ill.

Sometimes parents fail to recognize the Lyme disease symptoms. The symptoms of Lyme disease are not very precise, and they can change from one person to another. The parents might believe that the child is just inventing excuses to skip classes. Many children with Lyme had a hard time focusing at school because the disease can decrease learning abilities and can create different behavioral patterns.

Children are often exposed to tick-borne diseases because they play a lot on the ground, on the grass where the ticks live. Children are very close to their pets as well. This is another source that increases the risk of a child to get infected.

Children who have Lyme disease can display these symptoms:

  • Nausea and stomach pain
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Frequent headaches
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Insomnia
  • Troubles with the short-term memory
  • Reading and writing with difficulty
  • Inability to maintain focus
  • Thinking and expressing thoughts very difficult
  • Noise and light sensitivity
  • Fevers
  • Joint pain
  • Feeling overwhelmed by school homework
  • State of confusion
  • The ability to make decisions is reduced
  • Different behavior pattern than usual
  • Mood swings
  • Dizziness

Not many children with Lyme disease had an erythema migrans rash. This unusual fact in infected patients had, as a result, a delaying of determining the right diagnostic.

Some children might be infected during pregnancy or by breastfeeding.

These children have symptoms such as:

  • Ear and throat infections
  • Irritability without a reason
  • Pain in different part of the body, especially in the joints
  • Undeveloped muscles
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Pneumonia
  • Cataracts and other eye conditions
  • Psychiatric issues
  • Developmental delay
  • Tracheomalacia
  • Learning difficulties

If you suspect that your child has Lyme disease or other tick-borne diseases, it is recommended that you take him to the health provider to determine the right diagnostic.

Being infected with Lyme disease is very dangerous. These bacteria have a way of fooling the immune system of the human body. The bacteria trigger a strong immune response in a human body. Studies show that the bacteria can cause some abnormalities in “germinal centers”, These centers are the one responsible for producing a long-term immune response which protects the organism.

Even after months have passed since the body was infected, the germinal centers are not able to produce the necessary cells to protect the body. These cells are antibody-producing plasma cells and memory B cells. These bacteria are so powerful that they don’t allow the body’s immune system “to remember” the harmful bacteria and to create protection against future infections.[3]