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Protecting Yourself from Tick-Borne Illnesses

July 26, 2018
Whether you’re working in the garden, hiking in the woods, or sitting in the grass at the soccer field, you could be at risk for being bitten by the ticks that carry Lyme disease. Dr. Theodore Bailey, an infectious disease physician at GBMC, talked with Diane Lyn from Today’s 101.9 about how to lower your risk of contracting this bacterial illness, what symptoms to watch for, and why Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose.

“Maryland is one of the top seven states for Lyme disease cases in the U.S.,” said Dr. Bailey. “It’s a parasitic bacterial disease that’s spread by deer ticks, also known as black-legged ticks. Most of the symptoms of this disease aren’t unique to Lyme disease, such as fatigue, joint pain, fevers, chills, muscle aches, and foggy thinking. One symptom that is more unique is a bullseye-shaped rash at the site of the bite, but not everyone gets this or it’s often in a place you can’t see, like on your back or under your hair.”

Dr. Bailey explained that many patients don’t experience any symptoms right away but can have aching joints and other symptoms months or even years after the tick bite that caused the infection. He added that if you suspect you may have been bitten by a deer tick, talk to your doctor about getting tested for Lyme disease because, in addition to the better known symptoms like joint pain and fatigue, the disease can also cause heart rhythm problems, encephalitis and meningitis, and Bell’s palsy, a condition that causes half of the face to droop.

He also shared how to correctly remove a tick and why you should bring the tick with you to your doctor’s appointment. In addition, he explained that it’s essential to check yourself and your family after outdoors activities since removing ticks before they’ve been attached for 24 hours prevents transmission of the bacteria and Lyme disease.

“When you have symptoms that suggest Lyme disease, it’s important to remember that several other conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, can also cause similar symptoms, so you should get a thorough work up to rule out other causes for your symptoms,” Dr. Bailey added.

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