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Don't Get Ticked Off

Don't Get Ticked Off

Generally when we think of ticks, we picture them on cats or dogs—not humans. But make no mistake about it: These little pests will gladly suck your blood, and they might leave you with a little present.

The “present” is a Lyme disease health diagnosis, which can cause all sorts of unpleasant effects similar to the flu—like a fever, chills, headaches and fatigue. If the disease is not caught or is left until it progresses to a later stage, mental confusion can set in, along with joint problems, nerve damage and sleep disorders.

The problem with a Lyme disease is that it’s so difficult to diagnose. Only a little over half of patients even saw a tick on their bodies and laboratory tests carry lots of false-positives and false-negative results. Plus, signs and symptoms generally don’t appear for one to four weeks after being infected and some symptoms can take months to show. All these factors make it easy for a doctor to misdiagnose the disease. However, in some lucky cases, the tick leaves a calling card—a mark that looks like a bull’s eye, called an erythema.

Treatment is even trickier, since there are no vaccines available against it. Most doctors prescribe antibiotics such as doxycycline, amoxicillin, ceftin or erythromycin. Some experts say these antibiotics are ineffective for many people with Lyme disease and as a result, they can go on to develop the more debilitating symptoms, such as facial paralysis or a meningitis health diagnosis.

Follow these tips to help prevent Lyme disease:

* Shower or bathe with a washcloth.
* Use a dryer to dry clothes rather than hanging them out to dry.
* Use insect repellants.
* If you do get bit by a tick, use tweezers to remove it—don’t use your fingers. Press into the skin, grab the front of the tick’s head and pull at a right angle. Save the tick in a plastic bag for identification. [The New York Times]

Posted: 7/16/08