As the number of Lyme disease cases grows nationally, Alec Baldwin is sharing his personal struggle with the infectious illness. Hours after appearing on the season finale of Saturday Night Live, Baldwin rushed to California to speak at a LymeAid research benefit.
At the event, Baldwin said that he first encountered Lyme disease about 17 years ago. “The first time was the worst of all. … I really thought this is it, I’m not going to live,” he said. According to People magazine's website, Baldwin said he experienced the classic Lyme disease symptoms each summer after that for five years. “Every August, [I experienced] this black lung, flu-like symptoms, sweating to death in my bed," he said.
Lyme, which is transmitted when infected black-legged ticks (also called a deer tick) bite someone, can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency provided AARP with a graph showing a drastic increase in cases reported from 1991 through 2015, the latest data available. Studies suggest the cases could actually be higher.
The CDC says typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and possibly a rash. Antibiotics are used to treat Lyme, but the length of treatment can vary among patients. The earlier the treatment begins, the better chance of recovery a patient has.
May through July is the time when ticks are most active, according to the CDC.
The most recent analysis from 2015 found the greatest number of reported cases in the Northeast, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions.
The agency offers tips on how to better protect yourself, and your pets, from ticks.
- Avoid areas with high grass and leaf litter and walk in the center of trails when hiking.
- Use repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin or IR3535 on exposed skin for protection that lasts several hours.
- Use products that contain permethrin to treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents, or look for clothing pretreated with permethrin.
- Treat dogs for ticks. Dogs are very susceptible to tick bites and to some tick-borne diseases. They may also bring ticks into your home. Tick collars, sprays, shampoos or monthly “top spot” medications help to protect against ticks.
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors in order to wash off and more easily find crawling ticks before they bite you.
- Conduct a full-body tick check using a handheld or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon returning from tick-infested areas. Parents should help children check thoroughly for ticks.
- Tumble-dry clothes in a dryer on a high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed
Baldwin, who was bit a second time by a tick, told the group he and his wife now constantly check their children for signs of tick bites.