The symptoms of Lyme disease, which you can get from a tick bite, aren’t always obvious. At the site of the bite, a red splotch will often start to grow into what looks like a bullseye target.
Not everyone gets this unmistakable sign, however. Over the next few weeks, flu-like symptoms, including aches and fever, can follow. Left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to a host of problems, chronic joint inflammation, facial palsy, issues with short-term memory, heart rhythm irregularities, and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.
The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to do a thorough tick check. Nymph ticks are so tiny they can be hard to spot, so find a partner, strip down, and go over places that are hard to reach. Make sure you check your partner’s armpits, scalp, and groin for ticks.
If you know it has been on you for under 36 hours, use tweezers to pull it out correctly, and you will probably be fine. That’s because the Lyme-causing bacteria that live in a tick’s gut are slow, and it takes 36 to 48 hours for them to make it into your bloodstream. Always see a doctor if you are unsure.
It’s best to see a doctor for a Lyme disease test – but not right away. Your antibodies to Lyme disease take weeks to form, so an early test can give false reassurance. Wait four to six weeks before requesting a blood test.
If you do test positive for Lyme disease, a course of antibiotics will usually stop the infection in its tracks fairly quickly.
A small percentage of people who are treated will continue to have symptoms like fatigue or sore joints and muscles. This condition is called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, sometimes referred to as chronic Lyme disease. It isn’t exactly clear what causes these symptoms, it could be a delayed immune response or even another illness altogether. Until this controversial area of medicine is clarified, it’s best to avoid getting Lyme disease in the first place, at least while a vaccine is still in development.