Lyme disease definitely ranks high on the list of health woes we hope we never have to encounter. (Just check out how Lyme disease stole this woman’s sanity if you need proof that it’s scary as sh*t.)
But now, thanks to climate change, you might be more likely to get it than ever before.
You know how climate change = warmer winters and longer summers? Well, according to medical site STAT, these extended periods of nice weather are allowing deer ticks to mature faster and live longer. In the past, many would die off from chilly temps come winter. But now there’s a glut of ravenous bloodsuckers ready to bite and infect us with the disease-causing bacteria. Bottom line: Lyme disease is being transmitted quicker and more often. Yikes.
Give yourself regular tick checks after being outside. This goes double if you live in one of the 14 states where about 95 percent of Lyme disease cases originate. The most recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data lists Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut as the top states, and you can check where your state falls on the CDC website. It takes 36 hours for the infecting bacteria to cycle from the tick’s gut to its saliva and into your bloodstream, so act fast. (Got pets? Don’t forget to scan them, too!)
Don’t give ‘em easy access. Since ticks don’t fly or jump, they have to crawl, and they normally head upwards and look for thin skin (a.k.a. easy blood vessel access). Spots to keep covered and check first: the scalp, back of your neck, and inner thighs, followed by the hairline, bra strap, waistband, and rim of your socks.
If you do get bit, don’t panic. The two types of ticks you need to watch for (the deer tick and the Western black-legged tick) are both brown and roughly the size of a poppy seed. If you spot one, immediately remove it with a pair of tweezers, then wash the area with soap and water, says Damon Raskin, M.D., a board-certified internist in California. Check to make sure you got the head out (shudder) and whether it’s engorged and filled with blood. If you think it’s feasted, hang onto it and bring it to your doc; it’ll help him or her ID the critter and treat you.