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Lyme Disease – Taking Steps to Prevent It

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Lyme Disease – Taking Steps to Prevent It

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

With gardening, hiking and outside gatherings – it’s a great time to be outside and enjoy the season! It is also time to take the steps needed to prevent tick bites and Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted to people through the bite of an infected deer tick. The time for greatest concern is late spring and early summer when the nymph stage of ticks is active. Ticks acquire the bacteria after feeding on the blood of a small mammal or bird that is infected. If the tick remains attached to the person for 36 hours or more, it can transmit disease. In the nymphet stage, deer ticks are small (about the size of a poppy seed) and difficult to see. Deer ticks like to live in shared, moist areas at ground level; however, they will cling to tall grass, brush, and shrubs, at the edge of woods, and around old stone walls. Ticks do not fly; however, they will crawl and take the opportunity to attach as an animal or human passes by.

Many times people aren’t aware they’ve been infected by a tick until symptoms appear. These may include severe fatigue, recurrent flu-like symptoms, joint swelling, facial paralysis or rash. Some people might experience a sudden red, painful, lesion on their body. They should see their provider as soon as possible for evaluation, as Lyme disease is a possible cause and it can be treated effectively with antibiotics.

Here are some important steps to keep in mind:
• Wear light-colored clothing; tuck pants into socks and shirts into pants, when walking in wooded and grassy areas, or when gardening.
• After every two to three hours outdoors, check for ticks on clothing or skin. Brush off any ticks on clothing before they can attach to your skin.
• Do a thorough check of your body at the end of the day. Pay close attention to the back of the knees, behind the ears, scalp, arm pits and back. Check children and pets, too.
• If an attached tick is removed within 36 hours, the risk of infection is small. To remove a tick: Use tweezers, grasping the tick near the mouthparts, as close to the skin as possible, pulling it straight out. Don’t squeeze, crush or puncture the body of the tick, which may contain infectious fluids.
• If you consider using repellents be sure to follow label directions. Do not allow children to apply repellents themselves and use only small amounts of repellent on children.

To learn more about Lyme disease, call the Tompkins County Health Department at 274-6604 or visit the Department’s website: www.tompkinscountyny.gov/health to see what a tick looks like and how to remove it efficiently.