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Lyme Disease: Care Instructions

Picture of types of ticks with size comparison to a sesame seed

Overview

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread by ticks.

Antibiotics can treat Lyme disease. If you do not treat Lyme disease, it can lead to problems with your skin, joints, heart, and nervous system. These problems can develop weeks, months, or even years after you get the infection.

Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics even if it is not yet certain that you have Lyme disease.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your antibiotics as directed. Don't stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter pain medicine if needed, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Read and follow all instructions on the label.

How can you prevent Lyme disease?

  • Avoid ticks.
    • Learn where ticks are found in your community. Stay away from those areas if possible.
    • Cover as much of your body as possible when you work or play in grassy or wooded areas. Wear a hat, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants with the legs tucked into your socks. And keep in mind that it's easier to see ticks on light-coloured clothes.
    • Use insect repellents, such as products containing DEET. You can spray them on your skin.
    • Use products that contain 0.5% permethrin on your clothing and outdoor gear, such as your tent. You can also buy clothing already treated with permethrin.
    • Take steps to control ticks on your property if you live in an area where Lyme disease occurs. Clear leaves, brush, tall grasses, woodpiles, and stone fences from around your house and the edges of your yard or garden. This may help get rid of ticks.
  • When you come in from outdoors, check your body for ticks, including your groin, head, and underarms. The ticks may be about the size of a poppy seed. If no one else can help you check for ticks on your scalp, comb your hair with a fine-tooth comb.
  • If you find a tick, remove it quickly. If you can't remove it with your fingers, use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to its mouth (the part in your skin) as possible. Slowly pull the tick straight out—do not twist or yank—until its mouth releases from your skin. If part of the tick stays in the skin, leave it alone. It will likely come out on its own in a few days.
  • Check your clothing, outdoor gear, and pets. Ticks can come into your house on them. The ticks can then fall off and attach to you.
    • Check your clothing and outdoor gear. Remove any ticks you find. Then put your clothing in a clothes dryer on high heat for about 4 minutes to kill any ticks that might remain.
    • Check your pets for ticks after they have been outdoors.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are confused or cannot think clearly.
  • You have a headache or stiff neck.
  • You have a new or worse rash.
  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have new or worse weakness or muscle pain.
  • You have new joint pain.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.