reviewed 9/18/2018

Lyme disease: Myth or fact?

Summer is a great time to get outdoors and enjoy the weather. But it's also a season to be wary of ticks—and to get to know the facts about the diseases they can spread. And the most common of these? Lyme disease.

Myth or fact: Only certain types of ticks can give you Lyme disease.

Fact. Only two species of ticks—the blacklegged tick (or deer tick) and the western blacklegged tick—transmit Lyme disease to people. Deer ticks spread Lyme disease in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic and north-central United States. Western blacklegged ticks spread it on the Pacific coast.

Myth or fact: You can get Lyme disease if a tick bites you and remains attached for at least 24 hours.

Fact. That's why quick removal is so important. If you live in an area where ticks are prevalent, check yourself daily for ticks. The ticks that transmit Lyme disease are very small, so look very closely.

Myth or fact: Lyme disease can be sexually transmitted.

Myth. Lyme disease is caused by bacteria that only spread in certain ways. You can't get infected from touching, kissing or having sex with someone who has Lyme disease.

Myth or fact: Lyme disease can be transferred through blood donations.

Fact. Although there has never been a case of Lyme disease that came from a blood transfusion, it is possible for the bacteria that cause it to live in stored blood. If you are being treated for Lyme disease, do not donate blood.

Myth or fact: Those who get Lyme disease will have it forever.

Myth. Antibiotics can kill the bacteria. People who get treated in the early stages of the infection usually recover quickly and completely. Those who wait to get treatment may have long-term damage to their nervous system or joints, but over time the symptoms usually improve.

It's important to remove a tick as soon as possible with fine-tipped tweezers. If you get a rash or get sick within a few weeks of being bitten, see your doctor right away.

See how to remove a tick

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Institutes of Health

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