There are an estimated 300,000 lyme disease infections that are reported each year in the United States according to the CDC, not including countless infections where people are unaware or misdiagnosed. Preventing lyme disease is primarily spread through the bite of an infected tick – if you camp, hike work or play in wooded or grassy places you could be bitten by an infected tick. Here are a few tips to help avoid lyme disease.
Protect Yourself from Tick Bites
Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in moist and humid environments, particularly in and near wooded or grassy areas. You may get a tick on you during outdoor activities around your home or when walking through leaves and bushes. To avoid ticks, walk in the center of trails and avoid walking through tall bushes or other vegetation.
- Repel ticks on skin and clothing. Use repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin for protection that lasts several hours. Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes, and mouth. If available treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and may be protective longer.
- Perform regular Tick Checks- Check your body for ticks after being outdoors, even in your own yard. Search your entire body for ticks when you return from an area that may have ticks. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body and use this resource from the cdc as a guide to remove ticks. Take special care to check under hair, in armpits and behind knees, as well as any dark and moist areas or your body.
- Check your clothing and pets for ticks because they may carry ticks into the house. Place clothes into a dryer on high heat to kill ticks.
Remove Ticks Quickly and Correctly
In order to remove a tick use a fine tipped tweezer as soon as you notice it. If a tick is attached to your skin for less than 24 hours your chance of getting Lyme disease is extremely low; however you should watch for signs or symptoms of Lyme disease such as a fever or rash. Not all cases of Lyme disease have the traditional bulls-eye rashes or fever immediately so continue to observe for general symptoms over the next few weeks.
Be Alert for Fever or Rash
Even if you don’t remember being bitten by a tick, an unexpected summer fever or odd rash may be the first signs of Lyme disease, particularly if you’ve been in tick habitat. See your healthcare provider if you have symptoms.
Prevent Ticks on Animals
Attempt to prevent family pets from bringing ticks into the home by using tick collars and preventing animals from entering tick-infested areas. Check pets regularly for ticks and follow this guide to removing them.
Optimize your household landscaping to deter ticks.
If you live in rural areas or in cities it’s important to keep your yard optimized to deter ticks. Maintain well trafficked areas such as playground equipment, pathways and patios away from heavy vegetation. Remove tall grasses and leaves away from recreational areas or places where people or animals will frequently traffic. Engage a professional pest control expert to use a chemical control agent when possible.