Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is an infection spread from a tick bite. You are most likely to find ticks when walking in grassy or wooded areas. Once a tick gets on you, it may bite you and feed on your blood. Most tick bites do not cause Lyme disease, but if you live in an area with many ticks and Lyme disease is common, you are at greater risk. Antibiotic medications work well to treat Lyme disease and work best when you get early treatment.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

The telltale sign of Lyme disease that affects most people is a red rash. The rash often looks like a bull’s eye. It spreads out from the bite site and develops a large outer red ring with a clear ring in between. The rash feels warm, but isn’t usually itchy or painful. It may appear between three and 30 days after the bite, but often shows up about one week later. You may get body aches, fever, chills, swollen glands, and headache with or without the rash. If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your healthcare provider. Be sure to tell the health care provider about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick.

The most serious symptoms begin if Lyme disease goesuntreated. You may get severe joint pain and swelling, especially in your knees; this usually occurs weeks to months after the bite. Over time, you may get weakness of one side of your face, called Bell's palsy. You may also get numbness or weakness in your arms or legs; these symptoms can occur weeks, months, or even years later.

Causes of Lyme Disease

The cause of Lyme disease is a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacterium infects deer ticks. Ticks live on deer, but also feed on animals like mice, cats, dogs, and horses. If a tick is infected with the bacterium, it can spread it to you if it gets on your skin and starts to feed. The tick usually needs to be attached to your skin for at least 36 to 48 hours to spread the bacterium into your bloodstream.


Your health care provider may decide to treat you for Lyme disease if you have a history of a tick bite along with the red rash. Other symptoms of Lyme disease can be from many conditions, so your health care provider may also order a blood test.

Blood tests for Lyme disease look for antibodies that your body's defense system makes against the bacterium. It may take four to six weeks for you to make these antibodies, so these tests may be done after you have been treated or if you haven’t been treated but are still having symptoms.

Treatment Options

The treatment for Lyme disease is antibiotics. You will probably take oral antibiotics for 10 to 21 days to clear up an early infection. If you have later stage Lyme disease, your health care provider may recommend that you get antibiotics intravenously.

Even though you build up antibodies after an infection, you do not become resistant to Lyme disease. You can get the disease again from another tick bite and will need to be treated again.

What to Do

  • Prevent tick bites by staying on paths in the woods or fields.
  • Avoid woods or fields during peak tick seasons in your area.
  • Wear protective clothing and tuck your pants into your socks.
  • Keep your dog leashed so he’s less likely to pick up ticks.
  • Apply insect repellent with DEET to your skin and clothing; Use products that contain picardin or permethrin on clothing.
  • Clear your yard of brush and woodpiles.
  • Regularly check yourself, your children, and your pets for ticks. Remember that ticks may be as small as the head of a pin.
  • Take a shower after coming in from woods or fields. Wash your clothes and dry them on high heat.
  • If you find a tick, remove it by grasping its head with tweezers, pulling it up and out without twisting it, and then apply an antiseptic.
  • Call your health care provider if you have been bitten or exposed to ticks and you have a rash or other symptoms of Lyme disease.

What We Have Learned

Lyme disease is an infection you can get from a tick bite.
True or False
The answer is True

The most common symptom of Lyme disease is a red rash that looks like a bull’s eye.
True or False
The answer is True

Usually Lyme disease will go away naturally and treatment isn’t necessary.
True or False
The answer is False