Nice weather means spending more time outdoors. Of course, nature has its dangers. Sunburn, poison ivy, allergies—all of these can cause a person trouble, but probably none as much as ticks and the potential for dreaded Lyme disease.
Every year, state health departments and the District of Columbia report about 30,000 cases of Lyme disease to the CDC. And this number doesn’t represent the total amount of cases diagnosed every year. The tick-borne illness doesn’t just cause health problems for the patient who suffers a bite. If a woman is bitten by a Lyme-infected tick while pregnant, the baby may suffer birth injuries. It’s important to understand the causes of Lyme and the disease works and progresses.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, and transmits to humans through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick, also known as a deer tick. Common symptoms of Lyme include:
- the “bullseye” skin rash known as erythema migrans
- joint pain
- swollen lymph nodes
Early diagnosis and treatment is crucial to avoid complications of Lyme disease. When left untreated, the infection can spread to the joints, nervous system, or heart. Typically, Lyme is diagnosed based on symptoms and the presence of the rash. Erythema migrans usually appears within three to 14 days of the tick bite, and grow larger. Physicians can also use validated lab testing to diagnose Lyme disease. Usually, Lyme is successfully treatable with a course of antibiotics.
However, with late Lyme disease, symptoms and complications may not manifest until weeks or months after the tick bite. Those with late Lyme disease may experience long-term or permanent joint or nervous system damage.
Do I have Lyme disease?
If you are exhibiting any symptoms of Lyme, but aren’t sure if you’re at risk for the disease, think about the following:
- Do you live in, or did you recently visit, an area where Lyme disease is common?
- Did you recently find a deer tick on you? Keep in mind, however, that these ticks are very small (between the size of a poppy seed or sesame seed).
- Are you experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, including heart palpitations or facial paralysis?
Although there are tests to determine whether or not you have Lyme disease, there is no test to verify that you are cured. Doctors don’t recommend re-testing for the disease, as you can test positive for months or even years after you’ve gone through treatment. A positive test doesn’t mean you’re still infected, however. You can get Lyme again after successful treatment, so it’s important to continue taking precautions, like using tick and bug spray and wearing protective clothing in tick-prone areas.
Lyme disease in pregnant women
If left unchecked, Lyme can cause brain, heart, nervous system, and spinal cord problems. According to the CDC, Lyme disease may also be dangerous to a fetus. However, if treated promptly, complications can be avoided. If you’re pregnant and are worried you may be infected with Lyme disease, you should see a medical professional immediately.
Typically, pregnant women can receive the same treatment as anyone else—antibiotics. Treatment is usually something like oral amoxicillin or cefuroxime axetil for two to three weeks. However, there are certain antibiotics, like doxycycline, not used during pregnancy as they can harm the fetus.
The CDC also states that there have been no reports of Lyme disease being transmitted through breast milk.
When enjoying yourself this summer, remember to take precautions against tick-borne infections by using bug repellent, checking for ticks after being outdoors, and showering after being outside. If you or your child suffer an infection and resulting birth injury, the Kentucky and Ohio lawyers at Crandall & Pera Law would like to hear your story. Call us at 877-686-8879 today. You can also fill out our contact form to schedule a no-obligation consultation.