Summer is the time we like to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. Whether you’re hiking, gardening, like to explore nature or just play with your pets to take advantage of the sunshine, you also need to stay safe from risking tick bites and Lyme disease.
Reported Cases of Tick Bites and Lyme Disease Is on the Rise
According to the CDC, there are 30,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease reported every year. This figure is only the number of reported cases. The truth is the estimate is more likely 300,000 people could have tick bites and Lyme disease that went undiagnosed.
One reason that Lyme disease keeps growing is due to more new construction. Wildlife is losing their home and forced to adapt by moving closing to where we live. More deer and raccoons along with other animals that you may never have seen before such as coyotes, bear, and foxes also may appear more often in your yard, bringing disease carrying ticks as well.
Another explanation for the alarming increase in tick bites and Lyme disease can be due to climate change that alters the life cycle and reproduction of disease carrying ticks. Longer periods of warm weather also mean the ticks are able to survive longer on their hosts.
Precautions to Stay Safe From Tick Bites and Lyme Disease
The best plan to protect yourself from risking tick bites and Lyme disease is covering up any exposed skin when you expect to be surrounded by high grass or doing outdoor work such as gardening, landscaping, etc. Ticks can also hide in shrubs, piles of leaves, trees, and weeds.
Long sleeved tops and pants are ideal, but if it’s too hot to bear then at least use chemical insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone.
If you’re prone to going in bare feet outside, you might want to reconsider wearing shoes since ticks especially love moist, damp areas like between sweaty toes.
Avoid walking through the woods on an extremely hot, humid day unless you wear that amount of protective clothing and a higher boot-like shoe because chances are you will come back with ticks attached. To lessen your risk of picking up ticks, stick to the most traveled section of the trail where the grass and weeds have been flattened.
As soon as you return indoors, take off your clothing and examine them for any tick passengers that you may have welcomed into your home.
If ticks are on those clothes, then make sure to use hot (not cold) water that ticks can survive in to wash the items. You can also throw them in your dryer for about 15 minutes to kill them.
After your clothes are taken care of, you need to inspect your body carefully for any ticks that may have brought inside that could be attached to you before taking a shower or bath. Though you can wait up to two hours to get that shower, the sooner is better to help lower your risk of tick bites and Lyme disease.
Be careful to look in all nooks and crannies such as behind your eyes, between your toes, under your arms, between your legs and around your belly button because ticks love moist crevices. You also don’t want to forget your hair line and the back of your knees because those also make great hiding places for ticks.
What You Do If You Find a Tick Attached to Your Skin
Your first thought may be to yank the tick off, but that’s unwise. Instead, you want to get a pair of fine-tipped tweezers before you proceed. To avoid leaving parts of the tick still embedded in the skin that could remain to infect, you pull the tweezers upward. Removal in this fashion is a more precise method.
Any live tick should be flushed down the toilet or immersed in alcohol. You can also seal the tick in a plastic zip-lock bag that you secured shut with tape before depositing in your garbage. However, I don’t particularly trust just sealing the tick inside of a zip-lock bag. After all, you don’t know how long a tick can survive before the garbage men take the trash away.
Symptoms of Tick Bites and Lyme Disease
Some people will find obvious symptoms such a bull’s eye rash with a red ring and a smaller red circle in the middle in a spot or in several places over the body. You may also experience a headache, muscle and joint pain, nausea, weakness, and the face could be affected with paralyzed muscles to look lopsided. You could also have chills, fever, swollen lymph nodes to no symptoms at all.
Not that long ago, you could have had symptoms of tick bites and Lyme disease and sought treatment. Even though you had the bulls-eye rash or other symptoms, Lyme disease was not a common problem that most local physicians had experience diagnosing or treating. Now, however, Lyme disease is more recognized for the dangers it presents to our health.
If you suspect that you have tick bites and Lyme disease, visit your physician as soon as you can because waiting as little as 48-hours can mean the infection can spread and cause permanent complications later. These days there is specific blood testing your doctor can run followed by antibiotics that can stop Lyme disease.