As the weather gets warmer there is a lot to look forward to … bike rides, picnics, playing in the grass, and just being outside without freezing! But out of all the things to look forward to, ticks certainly don’t make the list. Lyme disease is a bacterial disease carried by ticks. The types of ticks that generally carry lyme disease are extremely tiny and hard to see, making it hard to know if you’ve been put at risk. What follows are some tips to help you, your family, and your pets minimize the risk of contracting lyme disease.
The transfer of the bacteria that causes lyme disease usually takes at least 36 hours, so the good news is if you notice a tick on a person or pet in your home, removing it immediately and cleaning the bite location with antiseptic may be all you need to do. If you have been infected, within the first two weeks you may notice a “bulls-eye” type rash on your skin. Fever, headaches, and muscle or joint pain are also common symptoms. If left untreated, these symptoms may increase, and swelling joints and mental changes have been reported after months of untreated lyme disease. Remember to call your doctor if you suspect you may be infected with lyme or exhibit any of the characteristics.
The good news is that animals can’t transfer the disease to us directly. The only way we can contract lyme is from an actual tick bite. If you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors, be mindful of ticks. Wear light colored clothing because this allows the tick to be spotted before it becomes attached to your skin. If the weather is not too warm, long pants and long sleeved shirts help by covering the amount of exposed skin where a tick can bite.
Insect repellent, especially one that contains DEET, reduces the risk of tick bites. Contrary to popular belief, DEET can be used safely – even on children – but you should check out the Department of Environmental Protection’s website for guidelines.
If you live in a wooded area or find ticks near your home, try removing extra brush and wood piles. Cleaning out the gutters, yard, and leaf piles will also reduce the likelihood of ticks. Make sure to check yourself and your pets for ticks daily! Fine-tipped tweezers can usually remove an embedded tick. Once the tick has been removed, cleanse the area with rubbing alcohol, soap and water.
Follow these helpful tips and you will greatly reduce the chance of getting a tick bite. Now grab your sunglasses, a magazine, and your dog and get out there to enjoy the spring weather. You’ll be glad you did.