How can something so small inflict so much damage?
That’s the question outdoors-type people — a group that includes runners — would like to know.
One tiny tick infested with Lyme disease can change a person’s life forever.
Just about all runners who work out on trails or through fields know they’re traversing a potential danger zone.
But the threat, the prevention and the measures that need to be taken if someone is afflicted bear repeating.
We bring this topic up every so often, particularly in the warm weather months, because this is when the risk is at its highest.
Let’s review ways to lower the odds of getting this disease, which can result in fever, nausea, headaches, joint pain and even heart palpitations.
- Try to limit trail running to wide paths with little to no high grass or protruding branches. Brushing up against such vegetation is a bad move.
- Hikers and gardeners can usually get by with wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, but that’s not practical in the summer for runners. So, at least try knee-high socks (plenty of compression brands available).
- Use bug spray that contains DEET (diethyltoluamide). It was developed by the U.S. Army in 1944 for jungle warfare, so you know the stuff works. Be sure to rinse this product off when your run is over, because aftereffects include burning eyes, headaches and difficulty breathing.
- Upon completion of your run, give yourself a thorough examination. This includes scalp and behind your ears. Then jump in the shower for about five minutes. This can help flush unattached ticks off skin.
- If you find a tick, it’s important to get it off quickly and efficiently. Use a pair of tweezers and gently pull the tick away from the skin. Then wash the area with rubbing alcohol and either flush the offending tick down the toilet or, as my late father liked to do, burn it with a match.
- Stay on the lookout for the dreaded bull’s-eye rash. Infected ticks that penetrate the skin often will leave a distinct, reddish rash. If this happens, there’s a good chance you’ve been hit.
- Be aware of symptoms. Even if all necessary precautions are taken, trail and open-field runners are still at risk. If symptoms such as fatigue, chills, muscle pain, headaches occur see a doctor.
- Medical treatment. After years of working in trees and around shrubbery, my father got the disease, and it went undiagnosed for about a year. Finally, he was hospitalized and a spinal tap was run, showing full-blown Lyme disease. It took about six weeks of antibiotics to get him back to full strength again.
For most people with early localized infection, oral administration of doxycycline is widely recommended as the first choice, as it is effective against not only Borrelia bacteria, but also a variety of other illnesses carried by ticks.
But perhaps the best advice of all is using common sense.
And that goes beyond just running. Wear gloves and don’t remain stationary for too long when working in the garden. I’ve given up on searching for my golf ball when I hit it into the deep rough or woods, unless I’m wearing long pants and socks in months like March and November.
If you have young children, remember to keep your lawn frequently mowed because long grass just creates a playground for the nasty little tick critters. Downed limbs and shrubbery prunings should also be disposed of quickly, because those are like resort hotels for the tiny monsters.
Finally, read up on the subject. The more you know, the better equipped you are to fight this microscopic enemy.
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