Lyme disease is an infection a person develops after a bite from a tick carrying certain bacteria. Although COVID-19 does not trigger Lyme disease, there may be a link between the two conditions, and they share a few similar symptoms.

A person can develop Lyme disease if the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi passes into their body through a tick bite. Rarely, another bacterium, Borrelia mayonii, which also spreads through tick bites, may cause Lyme disease in people.

Lyme disease is the most common insect-borne infection in the United States. The CDC acknowledges that there are nearly half a million new cases annually based on health insurance claims. However, that number is much higher since many people would not have sought medical care or had health insurance.

COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease that results from contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

This article explains the links between COVID-19 and Lyme disease. It also discusses the symptoms of Lyme disease and the steps a person can take to help prevent Lyme disease from developing.

Coronavirus data

All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date. Visit our coronavirus hub for the most recent information on COVID-19.

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COVID-19 does not cause Lyme disease, which is a bacterial infection a person may develop after a tick bites them. However, people may confuse COVID-19 and Lyme disease as the two conditions share some similar symptoms.

Some research also suggests there may be a link between Lyme disease and an increased risk of severe COVID-19.

A 2022 study suggested that increased levels of antibodies for Lyme disease strongly correlate with increased COVID-19 severity and risk of hospitalization. For this reason, the authors added that a history of tick bites and related infections might represent an increased risk of severe symptoms in people with COVID-19.

However, the exact mechanisms behind this correlation are not clear and further research is necessary.

Learn more about Lyme disease here.

The most common symptom of Lyme disease is an erythema migrans (EM) rash. This occurs in 70–80% of Lyme disease cases.

An EM rash is often the first presenting symptom. It appears at the site of the tick bite, often as an expanding, discolored skin lesion. Some people may refer to it as a “bullseye rash” because it can resemble the shape of a target.

Other symptoms of Lyme disease may also develop over time. Some people may not notice any symptoms to begin with.

Early symptoms

Early symptoms of Lyme disease tend to appear 3–30 days after the tick bite. These include:

Later symptoms

Later symptoms of Lyme disease that may appear days or months after the tick bite include:

A person may not experience the later symptoms of Lyme disease if they receive treatment before the condition develops.

Similarities with COVID-19

Lyme disease and COVID-19 share some similar symptoms, including:

  • fever and chills
  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • muscle and joint aches
  • shortness of breath

The best way a person can protect themselves against a Lyme disease infection is to prevent tick bites and exposure to ticks.

A person may encounter ticks throughout the year. However, they are most active during the warmer months between April and September.

Avoiding contact with ticks

The CDC suggest the following tips for preventing tick bites:

  • Learn where ticks live: Ticks are often present in grassy areas. They also often live in the woods or on animals. A person can try:
    • avoiding high grass and leaf litter
    • walking in the center of trails
    • staying away from wooded and brushy areas
  • Treat clothing and equipment: People may want to consider treating clothing and equipment they will bring into areas where ticks live with products containing 0.5% permethrin, an insecticide that may help protect against tick bites. Permethrin can remain effective through several washings, and people can even purchase permethrin-treated clothing.
  • Use insect repellants: A person may also wish to protect their skin by using insect repellants. The CDC recommend using products registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

After coming indoors

It is also best to carry out the following steps after coming indoors:

  • Check clothing for ticks: A person can examine their clothes after walking in areas where ticks are present and remove any they find. It is best to then tumble dry clothes on a high heat for 10 minutes to kill any ticks that may remain.
  • Examine equipment and pets: Ticks can also enter the home on a person’s equipment and pets. A person can examine these and remove any ticks before entering their home.
  • Shower as soon as possible: According to the CDC, showering within 2 hours of going indoors can reduce a person’s risk of developing Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.
  • Check the body for ticks: It is best to conduct a full-body check after returning from a place where ticks may be present. People can use a mirror to inspect the following body areas:
    • in and around the ears
    • in the hair
    • under the arms
    • inside the belly button
    • behind the knees
    • around the waist
    • between the legs

Learn how to remove a tick here.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection. If a tick carrying certain bacteria bites a person, it can pass the infection to them.

COVID-19 does not cause Lyme disease to develop. However, some Lyme disease symptoms are similar to those of COVID-19, including fever and chills, headache, and fatigue.

Lyme disease may also increase a person’s risk of experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms. However, further research is necessary for scientists to understand the association between Lyme disease and severe COVID-19.

It is best for people to speak with a doctor if they think they may be experiencing Lyme disease symptoms, such as an EM rash. Experts also recommend people take precautions to prevent the likelihood of tick bites.