May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month: Don’t Let the Tick Get You Sick

It could start with a headache, fever, joint or muscle pain or fatigue.  

And then there’s the bull’s-eye rash, the tell-tale sign that a tick bite could have infected you with Lyme disease.  

Lyme Disease is a very serious disease in Virginia. It spreads to humans through a bite by the blacklegged tick, which is found in suburban areas in the northern and western regions of Virginia and in the higher mountain areas.  

May is Lyme disease awareness month, a time to learn about the seriousness of the disease. If Lyme is left untreated, it can lead to the following conditions:  

  • Severe headaches and neck stiffness 
  • Pain in the tendons, muscles, joints and bones 
  • Additional rashes on other areas of the body 
  • Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, especially in the knees and other large joints
  • Facial palsy (face drooping on one side)
  • Irregular heartbeat, dizziness and shortness of breath 
  • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord 
  • Nerve pain and shooting pains, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet  

Not all blacklegged ticks carry Lyme disease and it’s possible to avoid infection if you find a tick right away and remove it from your body. If you do have symptoms right after the bite, it’s possible to cure the infection and avoid long-lasting conditions if it’s treated right away with antibiotics. 

It’s a good idea to check yourself over when coming inside from outdoors. If you find a tick on your body remove it right away. If you think the tick has been on you for more than two days, save the tick in rubbing alcohol (or clear alcohol like vodka). Watch for those early symptoms that include headache, fever, joint or muscle pain, fatigue or the bull’s-eye rash.  

If you notice these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider right away and bring the tick with you so that it can be identified. If your healthcare provider cannot identify the tick, you are welcome to send it to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) through the Virginia Tick Survey. Please note that testing is not always the best indicator of the likelihood that you may develop Lyme or other tick diseases. 

To learn more about ticks, how to avoid them and the diseases they can carry, visit the VDH Tick Page.