How can you prevent Lyme disease?
Hidden in the wooded and brushy areas where you live, hike or explore are tiny bloodsucking parasites called ticks. Different types of ticks can infect you or your pet with different diseases without you knowing it. Robert (Bob) E. Docherty, APNP, Gundersen Moundview Hospital and Clinics, explains how you can prevent Lyme disease.
A bite from deer ticks, which are common in our area, can cause Lyme disease. It's an infection that shows itself by:
- A skin rash at the bite site that often looks like a bulls-eye, but can be a solid red, oval patch
- Muscle pain, stiffness and swelling of joints
After you've been outside, check yourself for ticks, especially along the belt or bra line, back of the knees, groin, underarms, ears, hair line of the neck and in your hair. The tick must hang on to you for at least 36 hours to cause infection.
If you find one (look hard!), remove it using tweezers to grab the tick by the head, as close to the skin as you can. Wash the spot with soap and warm water and bring the tick to your closest hospital or clinic right away if you develop symptoms.
Our care providers can treat you with antibiotics if they catch the infection early. If Lyme disease isn't treated right away, it can spread to your joints, heart and nervous system.
Protect yourself from Lyme disease and other infections caused by ticks by:
- Avoiding areas with long grasses, dense brush and wooded areas where ticks live
- Using insect repellants with DEET
- Covering your skin with long sleeves, pants and socks; tuck pants into socks
- Wearing light-colored clothing to spot ticks