Lyme disease is on the rise, especially during active tick months from May through July. That’s why it’s especially important to take the steps to protect yourself from ticks through simple precautionary measures.
“It’s so important to check yourself and your family for ticks after you’ve been hiking, gardening, camping or doing other outdoor activities,” said Dr. Azfar Chak, chief of infectious diseases at Montefiore Nyack Hospital.
To protect against tick bites, the CDC recommends taking the following steps:
- Cover up as much as possible when hiking, gardening or doing other outdoor activities.
- Wear light colored clothing, as dark ticks are more easily spotted against a light background.
- Avoid areas with high grass and leaf litter and walk in the center of trails when hiking.
- Use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol or 2-undecanone.
- Use products that contain permethrin to treat clothing and gear.
- Shower soon after coming indoors to wash off and more easily find crawling ticks before they bite you.
“If you find a tick, grasp it with tweezers, as near the skin as you can, and gently pull it straight out,” said Chak. “If you remove it before it’s been embedded for 24 hours, the tick can’t transmit Lyme disease.”
Protect Pets From Ticks
To protect dogs and cats from tick bites, keep them out of tick-infested areas as much as possible. Check them daily for ticks and remove any ticks right away. It can also be helpful to talk to a vet about pet-specific tick repellent and control products.
Lyme Disease Treatment
If bitten, the most common symptom of Lyme is a bull's-eye rash, which tends to appear anywhere from three days to a month after contact. If possible, take a picture of the rash in case it disappears before the doctor sees it.
The standard treatment for Lyme disease is two to four weeks of antibiotics, most often doxycycline. Those treated with appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of Lyme disease usually recover rapidly and completely.
If Lyme disease is not discovered in its early stages, it can cause serious problems later on for the heart, nervous system and bones. Some doctors describe patients suffering from fatigue, pain and joint and muscle aches as having post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, or chronic Lyme disease. “There are some tests that are used to diagnose chronic Lyme disease, as well as treatments for it, but none are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” said Chak. “More research is being done in this area.”
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