Lyme disease is a bacterial infection which is mainly transmitted by deer ticks (Ixodes ticks) and black-legged ticks. Ticks are small arachnids which are usually found in wooded and grassy areas. Lyme disease is diagnosed throughout the USA and in more than 60 other countries.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated that 300,000 individuals are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year in the USA. That is one and a half times the number of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer and six times the number of people that are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS each year in the USA. People of all ages are affected by Lyme disease. Diagnosing Lyme disease can be difficult because many people who actually have it may be misdiagnosed. Experts agree the full number of cases is much larger.
The best way to protect against these blood-sucking ticks that carry disease is by avoiding contact with them. If you do find one on you, you should remove it as quickly as possible, the correct way.
Where You Find Ticks in Nature
Ticks can be found by the ground in old leaves, in grass, on bushes, and in dead logs. Some of the activities that put you at risk are playing in dry leaves, collecting firewood, and leaning against the trunks of trees. When hiking it is best to stay on maintained trails and not go through fields of grass.
How You Should Dress
When you will be out in nature, it is best to wear socks, shoes, long pants, hats, and shirts with long sleeves. If you have long hair, tie it up. Socks will help keep ticks off your lower legs, and long pants will keep them off the rest of your legs. It is best to wear shoes rather than sandals or going barefoot. Wearing a hat and also keeping your hair tucked in if possible will help keep them off your head. A long sleeved shirt is a good idea to keep them off your arms. Wearing light colors is best so you can more easily see ticks if they are crawling on your clothes.
When you are hiking, be sure to check yourself over for ticks whenever you stop for a rest. You can also check your arms and hands as you walk. Get rid of any you find right away. Once you arrive at home after a walk or hike, be sure to do a complete check over of yourself and children. Taking a shower shortly after can wash away any that might not be attached yet. Feel over your skin carefully for any bumps that could be an attached tick. Check the hidden areas of your body where they might lurk, including your scalp.
Kill Ticks on Clothing
If you are worried about ticks on your jackets or hats, you can run them in a clothes dryer for ten minutes to kill any ticks that might be still crawling around on them.
Defend Your Pets
Animals cans also be affected by Lyme disease from ticks. Be sure to check them over if they have been playing in long grass or wooded areas. Their fur is a perfect hiding place for small ticks.
Correct Removal of Ticks
Many have heard bad advice on how best to remove ticks. Here is what is currently recommended. You do not want to squish, press on, or twist a tick. Also don’t try to make it let go by using a match or lighter. Covering it with petroleum jelly is also not advised.
The best way is to use sharp, pointed tweezers or similar tools. Grab the tick very close to the skin with the tweezers and pull straight up away from the skin with even steady pressure until it releases. Use some disinfectant like rubbing alcohol over the area of the bite. Wash your hands well with soap.
Check for Symptoms
If you remove a tick from yourself or someone, be sure to watch for any symptoms of Lyme disease. The main symptom is a bull’s-eye looking red area or rash, though not all people will get one when they get Lyme disease. Other symptoms include nausea, headache, fever, dizziness, and pain in the joints. Consult a doctor if needed.Written by Daniel Baldwin