While May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, it is important for outdoor lovers to know how to best prevent, identify and approach Lyme disease and tick prevention throughout the season. Here are the 5 things you should know about Lyme Disease to protect yourself and help prevent Lyme disease for years to come.
1. Lyme disease can only be transmitted through infected ticks (and nothing else)
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease diagnosed every year. Known as the bacterial strain of Borrelia burgdorferi, Lyme disease is carried by infected ticks and transmitted through their bites. If you are bitten by a tick, remove the tick immediately to best prevent Lyme disease, as recommended by the CDC. The longer a tick is attached, the greater chance you have of contracting the infection.
2. Lyme disease Symptoms can range in severity
If you do experience a tick bite, you’ll notice some irritation at the location of the tick bite. Do not panic! Like other bug bites, this is a natural reaction. Symptoms you experience a few days after the initial bite will be much more telling of a possible infection.
Immediate symptoms of Lyme disease after a tick bite typically surface 3-30 days after being bitten. The most apparent Lyme disease symptom is an erythema migrans (EM) rash, which occurs in 70-80% of infected persons. This distinct rash will gradually expand from the bite location and can reach up to 12 inches in diameter. Oftentimes, as the rash expands, redness in the center will start to clear, causing a “bullseye” appearance. Other symptoms will mirror other infections with fevers, chills, fatigue, muscle and/or joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes. 
3. Diagnosis of Lyme disease is more than just a lab test
If you believe you’ve been infected, there are a number of factors that will impact your diagnosis. Physicians consider both the observed symptoms and the likelihood of being bitten by an infected tick. If your physician determines there was a possibility of an infected bite, they may order a 2-part lab test, which tests your blood against a number of panels. With this information, they can issue a proper diagnosis. 
It’s especially important to speak to a physician early if you suspect you have been infected. According to the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Educational Foundation, “a misdiagnosis during the early stages of Lyme disease may lead to delayed treatment and chronic symptoms, which can be very difficult to treat.” 
4. Prevention is key to best protect yourself from Lyme disease
The best way to avoid Lyme disease is to avoid tick bites all together. While they love warmth and humidity, ticks are resilient and can survive in a number of environments. Ticks typically live in wooded or tall, grassy areas and have higher populations in the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, and East Coast.
If you venture into tick territory, always wear protective clothing to prevent exposure to ticks. Tuck your long pants into socks and wear long sleeves when possible. Use a DEET-based insect repellent, especially at ‘entry points’ — your ankles, wrists, and neck. Don’t forget a flea/tick collar or medication for your furry friend!
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5. Know your environmental surroundings, and form a strategy to prevent ticks at home
If you live in one of the cities or areas most bothered by ticks, it’s important to prevent ticks from making their home in your backyard. Ticks love heavily wooded regions and areas with brush, thick and tall grass coupled with a moist environment. Reduce tick populations by mowing and keeping your lawn well-trimmed. For the same reason, it’s essential to maintain shrubbery and keep your lawn debris-free.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that you consider using a professional pesticide company to help reduce active populations of ticks in your yard and protect against future threats.
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