More than two thousand Connecticut residents are diagnosed with Lyme disease every year and that number could skyrocket as the number of infected ticks continues to rise. American Family Care (AFC|) urgent care centers across the state are often the first line of defense to diagnose and treat this potentially debilitating disease. AFC Medical Director Dr. Iftikhar Ali is on a mission to educate families about the risks of ticks during Lyme Disease Awareness Month starting in May.
“We are entering the most active period for ticks, which is from mid-May to mid-July,” explained Dr. Ali. “About 30% of deer ticks carry a bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi that causes Lyme disease, which raises the odds of contracting the disease from a tick bite. The illness can be difficult to diagnose, therefore prevention is of utmost importance.”
Typical symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic red bull’s eye skin rash called erythema migrans. The disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks. Laboratory testing is helpful if used correctly and performed with validated methods.
Dr. Ali suggests following these BLAST tips to prevent tick bites and potential infection:
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors from outdoor activities in wooden areas, (preferably within 2 hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
- Look for ticks and rashes. Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
- Apply insect repellent. Use repellents that contain DEET on exposed skin and clothing for protection that lasts up to several hours.
- Spray your yard or have it professionally treated to repel and kill ticks.
- Treat your pets. People cannot contract Lyme disease from their pet, but pet owners are more likely to get Lyme because pets bring the ticks indoors. Ticks are very small – nymphs are about the size of a poppy seed and adults are about the size of a sesame seed.
AFC practitioners are experienced at removing ticks entirely and treating the bite. Patients will be asked how long the tick has been attached to their body, as the time of attachment is very important. Normally a tick has to be attached to the body for more than 48 hours to spread any disease.
“However, if the tick is attached more than 36 hours and it is a deer tick, it is recommended to start one dose of doxycycline (2 Tablets),” said Dr. Ali. “No blood work is needed at that time as it will be negative.”
If patients have a tick bite but no active rash or any other symptom, instructions are given to return to AFC in four weeks or go to their primary care physician for blood work for Lyme and other tick borne illnesses.
For patients that have the bull's eye rash, AFC sends the labs out for testing for all tick borne illnesses; Lyme, Ehrlichia or Babesia, and starts patients on the full treatment regimen for Lyme disease.
“Early treatment of Lyme disease is crucial,” concluded Dr. Ali. “If left untreated, it can lead to life-long health problems.”
AFC locations are open Monday through Friday from 8 am-8 pm and weekends from 8 am-5 pm. No appointment is required and care is dispensed with the utmost quality and efficiency. The centers are located at 1171 East Main St. Torrington CT; 135 East Main St., New Britain CT; 1030 Boulevard West Hartford, CT; 179 Talcottville Rd., Vernon, CT; Danbury locations 2 Main St., 100 Mill Plain Rd & 76C Newtown Rd). All locations offer convenient, private parking. For more information visit www.afcurgentcare.com.