Rashes can be a cause for concern. A red rash that starts as a small red spot that then spreads over the next few days or weeks into a circle or oval shape can be a sign of Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is an infection caused by a bacterium. You get the infection from the bite of an infected deer tick. The rash starts where you were bitten.
Treating Lyme Disease at UVA Health
We may be able to figure out if you have Lyme disease based on your symptoms and the history of a tick bite. We can also do a blood test to see if you have antibodies for Lyme disease, but only 4 weeks after infection. The blood test is used in combination with your symptoms and personal history to make a diagnosis.
The rash may look like a bull's eye target: a red ring around a clear area with a red center. But, not all Lyme disease rashes look this way.
If you've been bitten by a tick but aren't sure how long they were on you, you should watch for a rash to appear. It may take about one month after the bite for the rash to show.
Antibiotics for Lyme Disease
Lyme disease gets better when you take antibiotics. The antibiotics kill the Lyme bacteria. You may need to take them for 10 days to 3 weeks or more.
If you have chronic arthritis from Lyme disease, we may also recommend:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Steroid injection directly into the joint
How Did I Get Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease comes from bacteria found in some deer ticks. An infected tick passes Lyme disease to humans through its bite. It must be biting you for at least 36 hours.
If untreated, the bacteria can get into your blood. It can then travel and settle in different places in your body.
You may be more likely to get Lyme disease if you:
- Live in places in the U.S. where Lyme disease is found
- Do outdoor activities in areas/seasons with deer ticks
- Live near or go into areas with deer ticks
- Work outdoors
Preventing Lyme Disease
- Avoid areas that likely have ticks
- If you'll be in an area that likely has ticks:
- Wear light-colored clothing to spot ticks easily
- Cover up your skin so ticks don't get on you
- Stay on cleared paths
- Avoid going into overgrown grass and brush
- Remove piles of leaves or other areas around your home and yard that could have ticks in it
- Check yourself, children, and pets for ticks after time spent outdoors
- Remove any ticks if you find them on you
Insect repellent can help prevent tick bites.
If you have a tick bite and live in a high-risk area, your doctor may go ahead and give you a dose of antibiotic. This can keep you from getting Lyme disease if taken within 72 hours after the tick bite.