Here’s what you need to know about Lyme disease

While social media helps us keep up with the Kardashians and all other manner of celeb news, it also has another anxiety-inducing side to it: Every so often, it spreads news of illnesses to the Twitterverse, which has us bolting to WebMD to see if we have it/can get it/should transition to the life of a hermit. These days, in the midst of summer, the words “Lyme disease,” which is spread by ticks, induces shudders in the best of us. If we didn’t already know what it was, it certainly became top of mind when Avril Lavignemade her struggle with Lyme disease public over the past year. Gigi Hadid’s mom, Real Housewife of Beverly Hills Yolanda Foster, has also shared her own years-long battle on Instagram.

The discussion creepy-crawlers isn’t pleasant, unless you’re a science-y type who’s fascinated by all things arachnid. However, if you read on, you’ll see there are many ways to prevent, and treat, Lyme disease.

So don’t cancel your cottage and camping trips. Here, Dr. Nick Ogden, senior research scientist at the Public Health Agency of Canada, tells us what we need to know.

What exactly is Lyme disease?

“You get it from the bite of an infected tick. So, the tick has to bite you. That means is it has to crawl up onto you from the grass and herbage where you are, find a place to stick it’s head and then it will feed for several days in one spot. So it’s got to feed for a reasonable amount of time, in most cases, before it transmits the bacteria.”

How can I prevent it?

“There are a number of ways you can do that. One is by wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts, so if a tick does climb onto you, it will wander around on your clothes and then fall off, rather than attach on. You can also apply an insect repellent containing DEET. Or the third way—and this is highly appropriate for a fashion website—is to tuck your pants into your socks. Also, a really effective way to prevent Lyme disease is, if you’ve been in and out of the woods, where there might be ticks, when you shower, do a thorough check of your body for ticks.”

Where do ticks live?

“Woodland areas. If your yard sort of backs onto a woodland, and people do live in those environments, then there is a risk that the mammals in the woodlands will carry the ticks into your backyard.”

What do I do if I have tick bite?

“If you find one attached [an adult tick is about 3 to 4 millimetres, whereas the nymph, which is hardest to spot, is about 2 millimetres],remove it with a pair of fine tweezers. If you do that within 48 hours, in most cases, you will prevent transmission. Grab hold of it close to the skin, and then pull it away straight up. Sometimes the mouth part stays in your skin. Don’t panic. In most cases, it will fall out on it’s own and won’t cause any harm.”

What are the symptoms?

“From our surveillance of Canada, it shows that a rash, not necessarily a bull’s-eye rash, but a red, spreading rash, will occur in 70 per cent or more of cases. It usually doesn’t hurt or itch. You could also have summer flu-like symptoms [like fatigue, chills, headache]. If it’s not treated at that stage, it goes on to other more serious symptoms, which are not necessarily specific to Lyme disease, such as neurological problems, heart problems, which are quite rare, you can get a bit of arthritis. But those symptoms quite often have many other causes than Lyme disease. It’s important to see a doctor early on.”

Should I stay indoors?

“No. Going out into the woods, doing outdoor activities, it’s a healthy thing to do. So it’s important not to be frightened but to take precautions.”

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