5 ways to prevent tick bites and Lyme disease
Protecting your family from Lyme disease starts with avoiding tick bites. Here's how.
With the arrival of warmer weather, you're likely spending more time outdoors. That increases the chance of coming into contact with ticks. Tick bites can just be a minor annoyance, like other bug bites, but they can also lead to Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.
Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected deer tick and can produce a range of symptoms, from a rash and fever to fatigue, joint pain and even paralysis. Approximately 300,000 people get Lyme disease each year, with the greatest risk in the New England, mid-Atlantic and upper Midwest areas of the country.
Here are 5 ways to reduce your risk of tick bites and Lyme disease:
- Keep ticks out of your yard – You don't have to be in the woods to get bitten by a tick. To reduce the tick population in your yard, clear tall grasses, brush and leaves.
- Avoid tick-prone areas – If you are in an area with lots of vegetation, stick to the center of trails. Don't walk through wooded areas with bushes, leaves or tall grass.
- Protect your body – When in areas prone to ticks, wear closed shoes, socks, long pants (tuck into socks), a long-sleeved shirt and a hat. Apply insect repellant with at least 20% DEET to your skin. Products containing permethrin can be used on clothing, shoes and gear for more protection.
- Perform a tick check – Your chance of getting Lyme disease is low if a tick is removed from your skin within 24 hours. Deer ticks are very small (about the size of a pin head) and may be hard to find, so carefully check your body, clothing and pets after being outdoors. Shower to remove ticks that have not yet attached to your skin. If you find a tick, use a fine-tipped tweezer to gently grab the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull straight out and don't twist. Clean the area with soap and water, antiseptic or alcohol.
- Watch for symptoms – Even if you don't remember getting bitten by a tick, see a doctor if you have a rash, fever or flu-like symptoms, the most common signs of Lyme disease. The sooner treatment begins if you have Lyme disease, the better.