Awareness and Prevention are Key
The weather is warmer, the days are longer and all you and your family want to do is spend time outside. It really doesn’t matter if it’s hiking, camping, or playing sports -- as long as you are outdoors-- you are happy. It is important to remember that higher temperatures and the more time you spend outside increases the risks of being bitten by a tick and contracting Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted to humans from the bite of the deer tick. Most Lyme disease in the northeastern United States occurs during summer or fall, when the small nymphal ticks are most prevalent.
Signs and Symptoms
The early stage of Lyme disease is usually marked by one or more of these signs and symptoms:
- Chills and fever
- Muscle and/or joint pain
- Swollen lymph glands
- A characteristic skin rash (erythema migrans)
When caught early, Lyme disease is highly treatable and curable with a single course of oral antibiotics. If the disease is left untreated, it can cause neurologic complications, including facial palsy, numbness, tingling and headaches, abnormal heart rhythm and large-joint arthritis.
Tips to Avoid Ticks
- Wear light-colored clothing. You’ll have a better chance of spotting a dark tick crawling around.
- Wear high socks, sneakers and long pants. Tuck your pant legs into your socks, your shirt into your pants and avoid wearing open-toed shoes to minimize areas where ticks can find its way to your skin.
- Use insect repellents. Apply repellent to any skin that is unprotected. You may need to apply every few hours. Make sure to avoid contact with your eyes!
- Shower or bathe within two hours. If possible, always wash off within a couple hours after being outdoors to wash away loose ticks. Do a daily tick check. Search all the places ticks love to hide: your hair, under your arms, between your legs, behind your knees and in your belly button.
- Don’t forget about the kids and pets. Be sure to check any children and pets before they enter the house. Ticks can easily drop off on carpets and furniture.
- Check all gear. Thoroughly examine all items you brought with you on your trek.
- Wash and dry your clothes. It is possible for ticks to survive the washing machine, even if hot water is used. Always dry your clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour as well.
- Create a tick-free zone at home. Mow your lawn frequently, stack wood neatly and in a dry area and discourage animals by putting up fences. It is also good to keep playground equipment, decks, lawn chairs, etc. away from yard edges and trees.
“While Lyme disease can seem frightening, it is preventable! If you are vigilant about looking for ticks, and can pull the tick off the skin within 48 hours of the exposure, you can't get Lyme disease from that tick. If you're not sure how long the tick was on your body before you were able to remove it, contact your doctor to discuss a one-time dose of an antibiotic to help prevent the symptoms of Lyme disease from developing,” says Lori M. Noble, MD, a primary care physician at Spruce Internal Medicine.