Lyme Disease Prevention Starts with Avoiding Tick Bites

Published Online: Friday, May 25th, 2018
Summer is almost here, and with more individuals spending time outside, knowing how to prevent tick bites could help keep Lyme disease from spreading.

In the United States, an estimated 300,000 new Lyme disease infections occur each year, according to the CDC. The disease is spread through bites from infected blacklegged ticks; these arachnids are typically found in wooded or grassy areas, most often in New England, the mid-Atlantic states, and the upper Midwest, but they can also be found in California, Oregon, and Washington.

Individuals that camp, hike, work, or play in these places are most susceptible to tick bites. One way to help prevent tick bites is to avoid walking through tall bushes, thick leaves, or other vegetation, as well as to walk in the center of trails.

Ticks can attach to any part of the body, and some are so small that they may be easy to miss. Ticks generally need 36-48 hours to feed on an individual’s blood and can leave a red, expanding, rash that often resembles a bullseye. The rash won’t hurt or itch, but a bite can also come with fatigue, chills, fever, and body aches.

According to the CDC, symptoms of Lyme disease begin 3-30 days after a tick bite with the average being 7 days, and 70-80% of individuals with the condition develop a rash. Ticks that carry Lyme disease may be carrying other diseases, as well.

Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics. Anyone bitten by a tick, or who has been in areas where ticks are common, and have an unexplained fever or rash, should see be encouraged to see a health care provider, the CDC recommends.
 
The CDC also offers the following prevention strategies:
  • Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter
  • Walk in the center of trails
  • Use repellent that contains 20% or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin for protection that lasts several hours
  • Check daily for ticks
  • Take a shower soon after coming in from outdoors
  • Carefully examine gear, pets, coats, and day packs. Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors
  • Call your doctor if you get a fever or rash

Reference

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevent Lyme Disease. CDC website. https://www.cdc.gov/features/lymedisease/index.html. Accessed May 25, 2018.

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