Life Lessons: Lyme disease part 2

Published: Jun 24 2013 05:00:00 AM EDT

According to the Centers for Disease Control, cases of Lyme disease in Pennsylvania have increased 78 percent in the past decade.

Lyme disease is dangerous because it can be difficult to diagnose and to treat.

Studies show cases of Lyme disease surge from Memorial Day to August peaking around July 4th in our area. But those are the cases that are discovered quickly, reported and successfully treated.

Unfortunately, there are other cases that are not picked up so quickly and those can develop into serious problems including brain infections and disorders of the heart.

Heidi Healy of Bethlehem Twp., Northampton Co.,  knows all about that.

Heidi, her husband and all of her children have had Lyme disease in the last 10 years.

She wouldn't dream of going outside in flip flops in the summer.

First socks and sneakers, then spray for her clothes and skin to protect herself against the tiny deer ticks that can carry Lyme disease.

She now devotes her time to educating people about the disease and runs a local support group.

She says, "Most parents don't know about Lyme disease. They really need to educate themselves."

Doctors say the best thing you can do is avoid a tick bite in the first place.

Dr. Luther Rhodes, chief of infectious disease at Lehigh Valley Health Network, says be smart when you are going to be doing outdoor activities.

"Lyme disease sounds scary but it is one of those risks of life that's very controllable."

After being outdoors:

•Carefully, check your body for ticks
•Shower when you come in
•Be smart about your clothes: Use light colors and tuck your pants in your socks.
*Avoid densely vegetated areas.

Dr. Rhodes says usually, you won't find ticks on freshly cut lawns or golf courses. "A tick will be on vegetation that is four inches or higher that somebody brushes against when walking."

And if you do get a tick, use the right kind of tweezers.

"Needle nose tweezers are the way to take a tick off pulling directly up," says Dr. Rhodes.

Not all deer ticks have Lyme disease but if you remove a tick from your body, doctors say look for the classic bullseye rash around the site of the bite that happens in many cases, but not always.

So also be on the look out for flu like symptoms.

Doctors say even if you didn't notice a tick bite, it's usually pretty rare to have the flu in the summer.

So if you have fever, fatigue and muscle aches the next couple of months, see your doctor right away and ask if it could be Lyme disease.

If you're interested, the Lehigh Valley Lyme Support Group meets the first Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. at Country Meadows Retirement facility on Green Pond Road in Bethlehem Twp.

The group is on break for July but meetings resume in August.

You can also contact them by email: lehighvalleylyme@aol.com