The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 35,000 people are infected with Lyme disease in the U.S. each month. Most infections occur during the summer and fall seasons when deer ticks are most active. However, you can develop the Lyme disease year-round, especially if you venture into wooded, grassy, or bush-filled areas. The Atlanta-based agency reported the ticks that cause Lyme disease were spotted in nine national parks. So, federal park officials recently instructed the public on how to protect themselves against the Lyme disease.
The Prevalence of Deer Ticks in America’s National Parks
Scientists have pinpointed mainly deer ticks, also called backlegged ticks, cause the infection. When a deer tick latches onto your skin and bites you, it can make you sick. More than a decade ago, Lyme disease was thought to be a minor infection that would resolve itself, just like a common cold. However, the newest studies reveal the true danger that comes with a Lyme infection. Because it can make you severely ill, these ticks should be avoided at all costs.
Avoiding Lyme disease centers on precautionary measure before you visit a national park or even venture outdoors into wooded, grassy, or brush-filled areas. Wildlife experts recommend using an insect repellent that is rich in DEET, which deters ticks from latching onto human hosts. You also should wear long pants and long sleeves so that most of your skin is covered. Likewise, you should wear long socks under your pants and high-top boots to protect your ankles and lower calves.
Additionally, you should check your pets and outdoor gear for ticks before putting them in your car. Check your vehicle once you get home for ticks. Take a shower within the first two hours after arriving home, and dry your clothing on high heat to kill deer ticks that might have latched onto your apparel.
The Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Along with taking measures to protect yourself from deer ticks and Lyme disease, you should also know the symptoms of the illness so that you can seek immediate medical help if needed. The most common symptom of Lyme disease is fever accompanied by muscle aches, chills, and swollen lymph nodes. These signs alone should signal that you may have Lyme disease and need to see your doctor immediately.
You may also develop symptoms such as stiffness in your neck, a rash that covers most of your body, joint pain and swelling, dizziness, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations. Further, you may develop short term memory loss, tingling in your arms and legs, palsy in your face, and inflammation in your spinal cord. If you suffer any of these symptoms, particularly if you notice a large, reddened insect bite with a bulls eye in the middle, you should go to your nearest emergency room for evaluation and treatment.
Fortunately, Lyme disease is highly treatable and responds well to oral and IV antibiotics. You may also need to take time off work or school to recover from the neurological side effects of the illness. It may take a few weeks to a few months for the disease to go away completely.
National parks are a magnet to summertime travelers and camping enthusiasts. However, trees and tall grass hide more than the elks and bears. They are also home for deer ticks that carry Lyme disease. Learn how to prevent this illness now before you visit any of the beautiful yet wild American national parks.
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