It’s the reason I got into this line of work in the first place some fifteen plus years ago now.
But in conjunction with working outdoors all day, every day, there are some real risks. And one of those risks that is quite real and scary is Lyme Disease.
A landscape designer I know through an online forum recently disclosed that he has been somewhat grounded this summer because of Lyme Disease. Fortunately it sounds like he caught it early, and the prognosis for recovery appears to be positive in his case. But not everybody is so lucky.
Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in North America and Europe. Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Deer ticks, which feed on the blood of animals and humans, can harbor the bacteria and spread it when feeding.
For those of us who work in heavily wooded or grassy areas, the potential for getting bit by a tick is quite real. Fortunately, not all ticks are carriers of the bacterium, so just because you’ve been bit or found a few ticks on your body doesn’t mean you’ll get the disease. But the potential is there.
Deer ticks are no bigger than the size of a pin head. They live in brushy areas outdoors during the summer months, and feed on the blood of warm blooded mammals. That means field mice, raccoons, skunks, your pets Fido and Fluffy, deer, and oh yeah – people! That means when little Timmy Tick finally gets around to imbedding himself on your neck, he’s sharing all those fun bacteria that he's already picked up from all those other wild critters with you. Fun stuff, eh?
So what can you do to prevent getting Lyme Disease? Well for starters, wear long pants, long sleeves and hats. I know this isn’t always everybody’s favorite choice during the summer months, but if you can keep those ticks off you then you’re a step ahead of the game. Bug spray can also help to keep the little parasites away. Regardless of your apparel choice, be sure to check yourself for ticks at the end of each and every day. Even though those ticks are quite small, they can balloon up to nearly bean-size once they start feasting on your blood. Popular spots include your head, neck, groin, and armpits, although they’ll hunker down just about anywhere they can get blood.
Once you do find them, remove them carefully with tweezers trying to remove the whole critter. If the head breaks off under your skin it could lead to a possible infection.
Keep an eye open for a rash or skin discoloration for a few days after removing the ticks. One of the first signs of Lyme disease is often a “bullseye” ring around the spot where the tick landed. As the bacteria spreads through your blood, other “bullseye” rashes could develop on other parts of your body, so keep an eye out for circle rashes even on other parts of your body.
As the disease progresses, other signs and symptoms may include fever and flu-like symptoms, fatigue, body aches, joint pain, neurological problems, bells palsy, impaired muscle movement, meningitis, and in extreme cases irregular heartbeats.
As scary as this all sounds, fortunately the prognosis for a complete recovery is quite high if the disease and symptoms are caught early. If you have any suspicions or thoughts that you may be experiencing symptoms, see a doctor quickly. The normal treatment includes antibiotics, usually in an oral form, but if the disease has progressed
a longer IV treatment may be prescribed.
Left undiagnosed or untreated, Lyme Disease can cause chronic joint pain, severe neurological symptoms, irregular heartbeat, and in severe cases cognitive defects. It is certainly something to be taken seriously.
For more information on Lyme Disease and how to prevent it, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/.
And if you're reading this, get well soon pc!!