For many people, summer means spending more time outdoors. And in some areas, it also means looking out for ticks that can transmit Lyme disease. IU Professor Max Moreno says this year, ticks are even more of a threat because of COVID-19. Moreno says the immune system gets very busy when attacking Lyme disease, making it more vulnerable to the opportunity of other pathogens and therefore, more vulnerable to COVID. Moreno says if you’ve had COVID-19, the effects of Lyme disease, which often affects nervous system tissues, could be more severe. And if you suffer from Lyme disease, COVID-19 symptoms could be worse because each disease can weaken the immune system, making a person more vulnerable to the other. Typical symptoms of Lyme disease are fever, headache, fatigue and a skin rash in the area where the bite occurred, according to the CDC. Moreno says if you find a tick attached to your skin, you should put rubbing alcohol on it as soon as possible to kill the tick, and then remove it. If alcohol is not available, try to remove the tick carefully without squishing it, he says.
In other news, as we head into the summer, warmer days could also mean days with poor air quality, which usually take place during warm months when pollutants react with heat and sunlight to create ozone. Gabriel Filippelli, Executive Director of Indiana University's Environmental Resilience Institute, says air pollution can take the form of ozone, other chemicals, or particulate matter, which is when small particles of solids or liquids are mixed in with the air. Filippelli says while particulate matter is largely invisible to the naked eye, it can have serious health impacts for someone who's exposed to it for long periods of time. In fact, it can take years off of your life. Filippelli says particulate matter, primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels, does not exit your lungs quickly. It is very small and goes deep into your lungs, which causes lung inflammation, and eventually lung disease and cardiovascular disease. While particulate matter pollution mostly comes from cars, it can come from sources as small as burning leaves in your backyard or as large as an energy plant. Filippelli says in the long term, the best way to remove particulate matter pollution from the environment is to electrify engines that burn fossil fuels. This includes cars, but also lawnmowers, leaf blowers and other machines that run on gasoline. In addition to particulate matter, ozone, which is created when pollutants from cars, power plants and other sources react in the heat and sunlight, can also be transported by wind currents. Unlike particulate matter pollution, ozone pollution doesn't stay in your lungs, Filippelli says, meaning it's more likely to cause a short-term health impact like an asthma attack. Residents should pay attention to air quality warnings in your city, Filippelli says. Additionally, if you are in an area with higher particulate matter pollution, such as near a highway, Filippelli says you may benefit from an air purifier in your home.