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Know the signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease

Time spent outdoors, especially in grassy and heavily wooded areas increases the chance you will cross paths with any number of bugs, insects and spiders, including ticks.

And with ticks, comes the danger of contracting Lyme disease. We’ve compiled the following information to help you understand more about the disease and how to identify it.

Important Information About Ticks and Lyme Disease 

  • In the United States deer ticks are most often found in the heavily wooded areas of the Northeast and Midwest.
  • To contract Lyme disease, an infected black-legged tick, commonly known as a deer tick, must bite you.
  • Typically, a deer tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours to transmit Lyme disease. If an attached tick looks swollen it may have fed long enough to transmit harmful bacteria.
  • Removing ticks withing two days will minimize the risk of getting Lyme disease.
  • When they bite, ticks transfer bacteria through the skin which can eventually make its way into the bloodstream.
  • Lyme disease is vector-borne, meaning it results from an infection that is transmitted to humans (and other animals) by blood-feeding arthropods such as mosquitos, fleas and ticks. It is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States.


Minimizing Risk

  • Ticks attach easily to exposed skin so wear long sleeves and long pants when spending time in wooded areas.
  • After spending time in grassy or wooded areas, inspect skin for attached ticks.
  • Removing ticks within 48 hours reduces the risk of contracting Lyme disease.


Removing Ticks

If you discover a tick attached to skin, there is no need to panic, but it is important to remove the tick as soon as possible. A set of fine-tipped tweezers or tick remover  will do the job nicely.

Use the tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull the tick upward with steady, even pressure. It is especially important that you don’t twist or jerk the tick which can cause parts of the mouth to break off and remain embedded in the skin. If this does happen, remove mouth parts with tweezers. Using a tool designed specifically to remove ticks makes it even easier.

After the tick has been removed, clean the area thoroughly with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.

Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by flushing it down the toilet or by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, and tossing it in the trash.

Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

When assessing whether a person has contracted Lyme disease consider the likelihood of exposure to an infected deer tick.

The first symptom of Lyme disease is usually an expanding rash known as erythema migrans or EM. EM occurs in 70% to 80% of all Lyme disease infections and has the following characteristics:

  • Begins at the site of a tick bite anywhere from 3 to 30 days after the bit occurs – the average is about 7 days.
  • Expands gradually over several days reaching a diameter of up to 12 inches/30 cm.
  • Is rarely painful or itchy but may feel warm to the touch.
  • In some instances, EM clears as it expands, creating a target or “bull’s-eye” appearance.
  • May appear on any area of the body.
  • Does not always appear as a “classic” erythema migrans rash.


Other symptoms include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes.

Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics.

If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system resulting in swollen knees and facial palsy. Read about these more severe symptoms at the American Lyme Disease Foundation.

MacGill offers diagnostic literature and tools to help school nurses make accurate assessments and informed decisions about rashes like EM and other skin conditions.

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