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Avoiding Lyme Disease
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by Richard Reis | 2008

Do you go out hiking on trails often? Worried about your health? Here are tips and a personal account to make sure you do not get Lyme disease.

Lyme disease, as many Sierra Club members know, is an infection transmitted by ticks, which are plentiful in the woods – exactly where we love to hike and hang out. My own personal bout with this nasty bug motivates me to share my experience and help others avoid or at least deal with it.

For the past few years, I experienced serious swelling of one knee or the other. My primary care doctors and even a specialist treated the symptoms as typical arthritis. In the last month, one of those doctors referred me to Dr. Hinkes, an orthopedist, who immediately suspected Lyme disease. After this was confirmed through a lab test, I began taking an antibiotic and my knee is healing.

The life cycle of Lyme begins when a tiny deer tick attaches to your body for more than a few hours. Most but not all infections begin with a circular rash. (I don’t recall that stage.) This is usually followed by a general infection with headache, fever, and joint aches.  It can then progress to a more serious illness affecting joints, nervous system, or heart.

Ticks wait on low vegetation to attach themselves to animals (including us). A Montgomery County pamphlet includes these suggestions:

·Walk in the center of trails to avoid brushing up against vegetation

·Wear light-colored clothes so that ticks are easier to see and remove

·Tuck pant legs into socks and boots and wear long-sleeved shirts – admittedly difficult on warm summer days

·Check for ticks on yourself and children

·Apply insect repellent

 

If a tick becomes attached, grasp it with a tweezers near its head and pull it straight out. If you experience symptoms, see a doctor to begin treatment before more serious symptoms begin.

I highly recommend the National Library of Medicine tutorial on Lyme at this web site:

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/tutorials/lymedisease/htm/index.htm

 

Other references include:

www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/Lyme/

www.montgomerycountymd.gov/lymedisease

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