Eight Important Things To Know About Tick Bites & Lyme Disease

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is a bacteria that’s transmitted to humans by deer ticks that are infected with Borrelia burgdorferi.  Infected deer ticks are most commonly found in New England, Minnesota and Northern California.  

How did Lyme disease get its name?

Lyme disease is named after Lyme, Connecticut. In the 1970’s, adults and children living in Lyme developed inexplicable symptoms, including joint swelling, fevers, rashes and headaches.  A scientist named Willy Burgdorfer was able to identify the organism that was causing these patients’ symptoms. As a result, the organism was named after him, and the disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi was named after the town in which it was discovered.

How do people get Lyme disease?

Patients contract Lyme disease when a deer tick that’s infected with Borrelia burgdorferi attaches to their skin and transmits the pathogen.  Deer ticks are about the size of a poppy seed. They have to be embedded in the skin for at least 36 hours in order to transmit the infection.

What do I do if I get a tick bite?

It’s important to inspect your skin (including your scalp!) after you’ve been outdoors.  If you find a tick, remove it carefully with tweezers, making sure to remove both the body and the head of the tick.  If you suspect it’s been on your skin for more than 36 hours, see a healthcare provider.

What’s the treatment for a tick bite?

If a tick has been on your body for more than 36 hours, it’s recommended that you take a one-time dose of an antibiotic called Doxycycline.  Taking 200 mg of Doxycycline one time can prevent you from developing Lyme disease.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

The symptoms of Lyme disease vary depending on what stage of the infection you have.  In the early stages, Lyme causes a bullseye rash (like Target’s logo), joint pain, headaches and fevers.  If it’s not detected and treated early, it can cause fatigue, pericarditis (a heart infection), weakness, numbness, vertigo and mental confusion.  Symptoms often appear 3-30 days after an untreated tick bite, but more subtle symptoms can take months to appear.

How is Lyme disease diagnosed?

Lyme disease can be easily diagnosed with a blood test.  

How is Lyme disease treated?

Lyme disease is a curable infection that resolves with antibiotics.  The course of antibiotics can range from two to four weeks, depending on how advanced the infection is.

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If you do find a tick embedded in your skin, or if you have any symptoms of Lyme disease, schedule an appointment online or simply walk into any of our six Golden Gate Urgent Care locations.  We perform the Lyme disease blood test, and we have antibiotics on site if you require treatment.

On behalf of our GGUC team, we hope you and your loved ones have a happy, healthy summer!

Author
Sarah Thebarge MMSc, PA-C Sarah Thebarge earned her physician assistant degree at Yale School of Medicine, and then studied journalism at Columbia School of Journalism. She has been a physician assistant and a freelance journalist since 2004. In addition to caring for patients at Golden Gate Urgent Care, Sarah frequently volunteers her medical skills in the developing world. Her writing has appeared in Huffington Post, USA Today and National Geographic, and her blog was featured on MSNBC.com. She is the author of the memoir The Invisible Girls and the upcoming book WELL: Healing our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa. She currently lives in the Mission District of San Francisco.

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