May is Lyme Awareness Month, which means it’s a great time to get educated yourself — or educate your friends and family — on the threat of tick-borne disease. Lyme warrior and advocate (and Uninvisible podcast guest) Ali Moresco sits down with LLMD and ILADS Director Casey Kelley, MD (also a former guest of the show!) to put together some quick facts and figures on Lyme disease and the need-to-know basics:
- What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme Disease is often used as an umbrella term for any tick-borne illness, but specifically it is an infection caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, and is spread via tick bites. Acute Lyme disease occurs after a bite from an infected tick, and frequently causes a flu-like illness with symptoms that can include fever, muscle and joint pain, and fatigue. Sometimes you will see a bullseye rash called erythema migrans that is painless and self-limited. If this infection is not treated quickly enough or for long enough it can develop into chronic Lyme Disease — which is often nicknamed “the great mimicker” because the symptoms can mimic many other diseases such as MS, RA, and ME/CFS. The most common symptoms of chronic Lyme Disease are migratory joint pain, debilitating fatigue, and brain fog.
- How common is Lyme Disease?
More common than you think! It is estimated that 500,000 people contract Lyme Disease each year in the United States alone. If you are outdoors, you need to be vigilant in all 50 states.
- What can I do to keep myself and my loved ones safe?
This is a great question! First of all, you can read Dr. Kelley’s prevention article, here. Prevention is truly key. When you are out and about — even just gardening in your yard, especially if you live in a Lyme-prevalent area — wear non-toxic tick repellent. Dr. Kelley likes products that contain picaridin or lemon-eucalyptus oil, like Ranger Ready. You can also pre-treat your outdoor clothes with permethrin spray, which you can find at any sporting goods store. Spray your clothes outside or in a very well-ventilated area until they are damp, and let them dry. The insect repellent will stay on the clothes for up to 6 washes. Include your socks, shoes, and hats as well.
Be fashion-forward and tuck your pants into your socks (!!). Wear light-colored clothing so you can more easily see the ticks. Wear your hair back and/or wear a hat. You can also use tick-tubes in your yard and follow the CDC’s guidelines to help keep your yard less tick-friendly.
Tick-tubes are toilet paper tubes stuffed with permethrin-sprayed cotton, and can be spread across your yard. Mice take the cotton balls to help make their nests, covering themselves in permethrin. This doesn’t hurt the mice, but it will kill any ticks on them, and help reduce the number of ticks you will be exposed to.
Remember — perform regular tick checks, wear tick spray, and be alert when you are outside this summer!