Skip to main content
Get Care MyChart Find a Provider Find a Location

Hidden in the wooded and brushy areas where you live, hike or explore are tiny parasites called ticks. Ticks can infect you or your pet with different diseases – like Lyme disease – without you knowing it. Gundersen infectious disease physician Arick Sabin, DO – who leads the organization’s research on Lyme disease – offers up some tips on how you can prevent yourself from contracting the infection.

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is caused by a deer tick bite. These ticks are about the size of a poppy seed and live in grassy or wooded areas. In the Midwest, ticks are most active from April to September, though you can still be bitten at other times of the year. Lyme disease can lead to serious health problems if left untreated.

Symptoms of Lyme disease

A skin rash that often resembles a bulls-eye is a telltale sign of Lyme disease, though it can have a more solid red appearance – or not show up at all – for some people.

Here are other signs of Lyme disease you may experience:

Stage 1

Lyme disease is an infection that shows itself in the days or weeks since infection by:

  • A skin rash at the bite site that often looks like a bulls-eye
  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain, stiffness and swelling of joints

Stage 2

The following symptoms can present in the week to months after infection:

  • Rashes in other areas of the body
  • Extreme tiredness or fatigue
  • Nerve pain or numbness
  • Heart problems, including skipped beats or fainting

Stage 3

If Lyme disease goes untreated for months or years, you may experience:

  • Recurring attacks of arthritis
  • Nerve damage
  • Short-term memory problems

"Because the symptoms can vary, and change over time, diagnosis can be delayed if clinicians do not recognize the association of the patient’s symptoms with an exposure to ticks," says Dr. Sabin. "If you are being evaluated for a fever illness, mention to your clinician if you have been exposed recently to ticks through activities like camping, hiking, hunting or similar outdoor activities."

How to prevent Lyme disease

Most simply, the easiest way to prevent Lyme disease is to avoid being bitten by a tick. The best way to do that is to avoid brushing up against shrubs and grasses in and around wooded areas.

Protect yourself

To protect yourself from Lyme disease and other infections caused by ticks:

  • Avoid areas with long grasses, dense brush and wooded areas where ticks live
  • Use insect repellants with DEET
  • Wear long sleeves, pants and socks; tuck pants into socks
  • Wear light-colored clothing to spot ticks

After you've been outside, check yourself for ticks – especially along the belt or bra line, back of the knees, groin, underarms, ears, hair line of the neck and in your hair.

"Being aware of the presence of ticks, wearing appropriate clothing, checking for ticks frequently and removing any attached ticks properly within 24 hours collectively reduces the risk of acquiring Lyme Disease dramatically," adds Dr. Sabin.

Safely remove a tick

If you find a tick, don’t panic. A tick must hang on to you for at least 36 hours to cause infection.

However, it’s important that you know how to remove an embedded tick the right way. Remove it using tweezers to grab the tick by the head, as close to the skin as you can. Wash the spot with soap and warm water and bring the tick to your closest hospital or clinic right away if you develop symptoms.

How to treat Lyme disease

Prompt Lyme disease treatment can save you from experiencing severe health complications in your joints, heart and nervous system. Our care providers can treat you with antibiotics if the infection is caught early.  

"Lyme Disease is a treatable infectious disease from which the vast majority of patients recover completely. Appropriate antibiotic therapy is very effective in preventing the disease from progressing to its later stages," says Dr. Sabin. "Successful treatment of Lyme Disease does not involve prolonged, or lifelong, antibiotic therapy."  

Contact your healthcare provider if you are experiencing any symptoms of Lyme disease.  

1900 South Ave.
La Crosse, WI 54601

(608) 782-7300

Language Support:
Jump back to top