Not only has this year's unseasonably warm winter left us with worse allergies and predictions of a buggier spring, experts warn it also may be setting the stage for for a more-serious-than-usual tick season -- and that means the number of cases of Lyme disease could spike.
Spread to humans via a bite from an infected tick, Lyme disease is notoriously difficult to diagnose. Symptoms can masquerade as those of the flu, according to the CDC, or be hardly noticeable at all, physician, author and HuffPost blogger Leo Galland, M.D., writes.
A bite can result in a red, expanding rash that looks like a bull's eye -- but doesn't always. Some people may only notice a change in their mood or a general feeling of fatigue. Doctors perform lab tests to try to accureately diagnose Lyme disease, although they may not always be 100-percent reliable, Galland writes.
If Lyme disease is diagnosed and treated quickly with antibiotics, most people recover fully and quickly, according to the CDC. But 10 to 20 percent of people have persistent symptoms after antibiotic treatment.
That's why prevention and awareness is so important. A few key points to remember: Avoid wooded areas or high grass and consider using an insect repellent outside. When you return inside, check for ticks. (Taking a shower soon after can help you find any in easy-to-miss spots.) Tumble-drying clothes can kill any ticks that remain on clothes. If you do find a tick, remove the entire thing with tweezers, pulling up steadily, without twisting the tick, and clean the bite and your hands with alcohol.
If you live in or have traveled to one of the areas where Lyme disease is most common, contact your doctor for next steps. Don't worry about a small bump or a bit of redness at the site of the bite -- but if it doesn't go away after a couple of days or if other symptoms start, it's worth a call.
While we might not expect A-list celebrities to be traipsing through wooded, grassy areas all that often, stars aren't immune to tick bites -- and many have used their fame to raise awareness for the illness. Here are a few of the famous faces that have been touched by Lyme disease.
For more on celebrity health, click here.
For more on Lyme disease, click here.
CLARIFICATION: While this post never said Brinkley had Lyme disease, the headline has been edited.
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