Lyme Disease: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

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

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 call line 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. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • 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.

To prevent Lyme disease in the future

  • Avoid ticks:
    • Learn where ticks are found in your community, and 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.
    • Use insect repellents, such as products containing DEET. You can spray them on your skin.
    • 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.
  • Ticks can come into your house on clothing, outdoor gear, and pets. These ticks can 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 1 hour to kill any ticks that might remain.
    • Check your pets for ticks after they have been outdoors.
  • When hiking in the woods, carry a small dry jar or ziplock bag. If you find a tick on your body, remove the tick and put it in the jar or bag. Store the container in the freezer so you can give it to your doctor if symptoms develop. The tick can be tested to learn whether it is carrying the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.

When should you call for help?

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

  • You have skipping or pounding heartbeats, a severe headache, or neck pain.

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

  • You develop a new rash.
  • You are very tired.
  • You have joint pain (especially with redness and swelling).
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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