Preventing Tick Bites During Lyme Disease Awareness Month

According to a recent article, medical professionals are urging people to be careful and avoid tick bites as May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a vector-borne disease that is typically caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi and spread by ticks. About 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the CDC annually, but not all cases are reported. The actual number of cases is most likely higher.

Symptoms:

Symptoms come in stages, so they differ depending on how long one has had the disease. Early symptoms include fever, chills, headaches, fatigue, aches in the muscles and joints, swollen lymph nodes, and erythema migrans rash. This rash forms at the site of the tick bite. These symptoms will occur three to 30 days after infection.

Later effects begin to appear days or months after the bite. They include severe headaches, neck stiffness, additional rashes, facial palsy, arthritis, severe joint pain and swelling, intermittent pain in the tendons, muscles, joints, and bones, an irregular heart beat, dizziness, shortness of breath, inflammation in the brain and spinal cord, nerve pain, shooting pains, numbness, and tingling.

Causes:

A bacteria is responsible for Lyme disease, and it is called Borrelia burgdorferi. Infected deer ticks transmit the disease throughout the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and north-central portions of the United States, while the western blacklegged tick spreads the disease on the Pacific coast.

Treatments:

Rapid diagnosis is important, as antibiotics can quickly and completely cure the disease during its early stages. Doctors may prescribe doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime axetil. These antibiotics are typically enough to cure the disease, but at times people develop post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, which is when symptoms last more than six months after completing treatment.

Preventing tick bites and removing ticks quickly and completely are also important to stop the transmission of Lyme disease.

Lyme Disease Awareness Month

Over 2 million people in the United States are living with chronic illnesses that are related to Lyme Disease. Furthermore, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that almost 500,000 people will get Lyme disease from just one tick bite. As a result, May has been declared Lyme Disease Awareness Month. The month is a time to recognize the struggles those with Lyme disease face and increase awareness about ways to prevent contracting the disease. 

How to Prevent Yourself from Being Bit by a Tick

Know Where Ticks Reside

If you are planning on taking a trip outdoors, it is important to keep in mind if you are going into an environment where ticks thrive. Ticks prefer to live in areas that are grassy, brushy, or heavily wooded areas. In addition, ticks can live on animals, so be sure to inspect the animals you come in contact with.

Using Permethrin

Permetrin is a medication and insecticide that can be useful in fighting off ticks. Try to find products you can treat your clothes and gear with that contains 0.5% permethrin or buy clothes that are already treated with it.

Finding the Right Products

While there are a number of insect-repellants available on the market, it is vital to choose the products that best suit your needs. It is strongly recommended to use products that are registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), many of which contain DEET, picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), 2-undecanone, and a few others. Some products cannot be used on children younger than 3 years old, so be sure to read the product you buy carefully!

Don’t Stray from the Path

When hiking or walking on a trail, be sure to stay within the established path. Do not stray outside of the trail into the brushy areas as this is where ticks will likely be hiding. When possible, travel in the middle of the trail.

Check Yourself Very Carefully

After returning from spending time outside, it is crucial that you inspect your clothes for any ticks that you may have carried into your home. If you find any ticks on your clothing, be sure to dispose of them immediately. Furthermore, if you have someone else there with you, ask them to check you for ticks in spots that you might not be able to see.

Once you remove your post-walk clothes, tumble dry them on high heat in your dryer for about 10 minutes. This will ensure that any ticks that might not have been found will be killed. Moreover, if you need to wash your clothes first be sure to use hot water because ticks can survive in cold and medium temperatures.

Inspect Your Gear and Pets

After you finish inspecting yourself for ticks, it is time to check any gear or pets that you brought with you outside. It is possible that ticks you may have brought home with you have traveled to your gear and even pets, so be sure to examine them carefully.

Shower as Soon as Possible

Showering as soon as possible after coming back in from outside is another great way to eliminate the possibility of getting a tick bite. Experts recommend showering within two hours of returning home for the best results. This is another good time to inspect yourself for the small insects once again.

Don’t Miss These Key Spots

When inspecting yourself or others for ticks, there are some key areas you should look at. These areas include, but are not limited to, under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, the back of the knees, the hair, between the legs, and around the waist.

Preventing Your Dog from Ticks

Unfortunately, your furry little friends are extremely vulnerable to tick bites and tickborne diseases. Dogs in particular are high-risk for being bit by ticks, but thankfully, there are some prevention methods you can take.

One thing you can do to help prevent your dog(s) from being bothered by ticks is to use a tick preventive product on your dog. It is important to note that even when you use a preventative product, you should still do a thorough examination of your dog(s) whenever they come back inside.

Tickborne diseases may not affect your animals for 1-3 weeks or more after they are bit. As a result, you should keep a close eye on your animal’s behavior or any changes you witness about their appetite if you are worried your pet may have been bit. 

Preventing Ticks in Your Yard

There are some things you can do to make your yard less desirable to ticks if you so choose. For one, you can rid your yard of tall grasses and brush since this is a place where ticks prefer to live. Also, if you have a wooded area at the back of your yard, creating a three-foot barrier (for example with wood chips or gravel) between the woods and your yard can help stop ticks migrating to your recreational areas. Additionally, mowing your lawn on a regular basis and ridding your yard of leaves is another great step you can take towards preventing ticks in your yard.

As the warmer months approach and you start to spend more time outdoors, be sure to stay alert for any pesky ticks on yourself, your stuff, and your pets.

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