There are two reasons why I do not like camping. First, I do not like sleeping on the floor. Second, I'm afraid of ticks.
This phobia of mine is not completely irrational, as certain ticks are known to carry Lyme disease, an infection caused by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi and transmitted to humans through the bite of a human infected tick , Black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are the main culprits.
The number of people with Lyme disease is difficult to determine. Studies say 30,000 cases are reported each year, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate the number could be closer to 300,000. The determination of where Lyme disease occurs in the US is somewhat easier to determine, with most cases occurring in the northeast, mid-Atlantic, north-central and Pacific Northwest regions.
The frustrating thing about Lyme disease is that it takes quite a lot of time to properly diagnose. And sometimes the symptoms are similar to those that can be experienced due to other illnesses, which is why it is sometimes referred to as the "big imitator". Some of the common symptoms include fever, chills, headaches, fatigue, muscle / joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes. These ailments can occur with many other diseases, but an indication that you may have Lyme disease is the appearance of a erythema migrans rash or "bull's-eye" rash. About 70-80 percent of people with Lyme disease get the rash, and the rash itself is not itchy or painful.
If the disease is left untreated, more severe symptoms can occur, including palpitations, facial paralysis, severe arthritis, and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.
Preventing and Treating Lyme Disease
The good news is that there are things you can do to prevent Lyme disease. In most cases, it takes at least 36-48 hours for a tether to transfer the virus to the bloodstream, so it's important to respond quickly.
"Stay away from tall grass and brush where ticks are hiding," advises Patricia DeLaMora, MD, specialist in pediatric infectious diseases, with the Komansky Children's Hospital of New York-Presbyterian. Hikers should walk in the middle of trails and wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to prevent ticks from coming in contact with the skin. DeLaMora also suggests spraying your body with DEET and using a heavy insecticide such as permethrin for tents and other camping gear.
When you're inside, it's important to get your clothes in the dryer quickly. "Ticks can survive a washing machine cycle, but they can not survive 10 minutes of high heat," explains DeLaMora.
After treating your clothes, the next step is to take a shower. Everything that hangs on you is flushed down the drain. After drying, make sure to check your body for ticks, especially in places where they would like to hide. This includes the scalp, the ears and the groin area. A tick that is not swollen can be as small as a poppy, so it is important to carefully examine your skin. If you have a pet, make sure you also get a tick-check.
If you think you've been bitten by a tick, it's important that you consult a specialist.
"In the first four to six weeks after the tick, it really is a clinical diagnosis, meaning you go go to your doctor because you do not feel well," says DeLaMora. "Early disease is a clinical diagnosis, you just go on antibiotics, and later stages of the disease that occur several months after a tick bite … can be diagnosed with a blood test."
Armed with all this information, I feel a little bit safer with regard to possible tick encounters. However, I do not see myself camping soon … unless I have an air mattress!
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