Lyme Disease: How You Can Prevent It and Why You Should
Guest post by Dr. Roger Drummond, author of Ticks and What You Can Do About Them
Lyme disease is still the number one reported vector carried disease in the US. It is the 7th ranked Nationally Notifiable Disease although 95% of the cases are found in the Northeast or the upper Midwest. Recently, there has been more evidence to show that in many cases of Lyme disease there have been delayed symptoms of arthritis and other medical problems now called Post Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS).
Here are a few steps you can take to prevent suffering infection:
Avoid areas in nature where ticks live
It may sound obvious, but to avoid getting Lyme disease, it is necessary to prevent the attachment and feeding of the blacklegged (or deer) tick, Ixodes scapularis. One of the simplest ways to do that? Just don’t go near them. If white-tail deer live in the area, it’s a pretty good sign that these ticks are lurking around. Other animals that might indicate a deer tick population include mice, lizards, and migratory birds.
Use repellent on skin & clothing
You can treat your skin with 20-30% DEET found in a number of repellents. What about DEET alternatives, such as those using picaridin? There simply isn’t much data showing their effectiveness. According to Durland Fish, professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health, “We’re pretty confident that DEET works, but those other repellents have just not been effectively tested against ticks.
You can also treat your clothing with a spray of permethrin or you can purchase permethrin-treated clothing. Check out this guide to tick repellents from the Appalachian Mountain Club.
Look for ticks
Just coming back from a hike through tick-country? It is critical that you examine yourself and others in your family for attached ticks. It takes 36-48 hours for an attached tick to transmit Lyme disease so if you remove the tick before then you can prevent transmission. You can remove an attached tick by grasping it with forceps next to the skin where it is attached and remove it by pulling it off.
Also be aware that nymph-stage ticks are the most common transmitters of Lyme disease. This makes carefully looking for ticks all the more crucial: nymphs are very small, sometimes even microscopic.
Know the signs
Let’s say you’ve found a tick bite. If you see a bull’s-eye rash around the site of the tick attachment or experience flu-like symptoms in the summer months you should see a medical doctor who can take a blood sample to be tested for the disease organism. If the organism is found in this early stage it is easily eliminated with several antibiotics. Other signs to look for include body-wide itching, chills, fever, headache, muscle pain, and a stiff neck.
To learn more about ticks, the diseases they carry and what you can do about them, read Ticks and What You Can do about Them by Dr Roger Drummond, published by Wilderness Press.