With summer on our doorstep, many of us are gearing up for gardening, camping, hiking and general outdoor fun. However, we also need to make preventing tick bites a part of our summer plans to keep ourselves and our families free from Lyme disease.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is an infection caused by bacteria transmitted to humans through a bite from an infected black-legged or deer tick. Symptoms include severe headache and joint pain, fever, rash, loss of muscle tone and heart palpitation. They can become visible anywhere from three to thirty days after the bite. The chance of you getting Lyme disease from a tick bite depends on the kind of tick and how long the tick was attached to your skin. Ticks are more likely to be found in wooded and grassy areas, so take care to avoid bites when out in nature this summer.
How Do I Prevent Tick Bites?
• Ticks make their home in bushes, grasses and trees. Avoid walking directly through patches of tall vegetation, and stick to the middle of the path.
• Use insect repellent on exposed skin, following the product instructions. Also treat clothing and gear such as boots, pants, socks and camping tents, or buy pre-treated clothing.
• Regularly remove leaves and clear tall grasses and brush from around your home. Placing wood chips or gravel between your lawn and a wooded area also helps.
• Prevent your pets from bringing home ticks by limiting their access to tick-infested areas, or by using a veterinarian-prescribed tick collar.
• Use a tick control chemical around your home, or contact a professional pest controller.
• Deer are the main food source for ticks. Keep deer away by removing plants that attract them or putting up a fence around your yard.
Perform Daily Tick Checks
Check your body and your child’s body for ticks after being outdoors in a wooded or grassy area. Take care to check these parts of the body:
• Under the arms
• In and around the ears
• Inside the belly button
• Back of the knees
• In and around all head and body hair
• Between the legs
• Around the waist
Lyme Disease: What You Need to Know
Protecting yourself from tick bites is the only sure way to avoid Lyme disease. Remove an attached tick with fine-tipped tweezers as soon as you notice it. If a tick is attached to your skin for less than 24 hours, your chance of getting Lyme disease is extremely small.
An unexpected summer fever or rash may be the first signs of Lyme disease, even if you don’t recall being bitten by a tick. If this occurs, be sure to see your health care provider as soon as possible. Your provider can diagnose you with a two-step blood test and prescribe the right antibiotics if necessary.