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You Asked: I Think I Have Lyme Disease

You're asking and I'm answering.

Dear Fit,
Last weekend after a night of camping, I was washing my hair and realized there was something stuck to my scalp. My husband took a look and found a small black tick embedded in my skin. He removed the whole thing, and aside from being completely freaked out, now I'm worried that I have Lyme disease. How do I know?
—Totally Ticked Off by a Tick

I'm sure many other readers can feel your pain in discovering a creepy crawly bug on your head, and I can understand your concern about Lyme disease, but don't panic yet. Just


First, it's important to know what kind of tick you found on you. Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium (called Borrelia burgdorferi in case you were wondering), which is transmitted by a bite from infected black-legged ticks. In the northeastern and north-central US, the blacklegged tick (or deer tick) transmits Lyme disease. In the Pacific coastal US, the disease is spread by the western black-legged tick. When a tick feeds on an infected animal, the little bugger takes the bacterium into its body. It sounds gross, but the bacterium lives in the gut of the tick, and the next time it goes to feed, the tick can transmit the bacterium to its new host.

If you have Lyme disease, early symptoms include fever, headache, muscle soreness, fatigue, and a characteristic reddish skin rash called erythema migrans will appear three to 30 days after you've been bitten. The rash is often circular and resembles a bull's eye pattern. If left untreated, the infection can spread to your joints, heart, and nervous system, causing pain and loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face (called facial or "Bell's" palsy).

If you are having early symptoms, or you just want to be sure, a lab test will determine if you have Lyme disease, and a few weeks of antibiotics will successfully treat the infection.


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