- As we fire up the grills and begin to plant our gardens this summer, it is important to remain aware and cautious of some of the dangers that this time of year brings. While it is certainly a time to go outdoors and enjoy the season, their is an avoidable health threat that may be right past your back door, Lyme disease. With over 95,000 reported cases in New York State since 1986, Lyme disease is more common than you may think. However, armed with the right tools and knowledge, you will be able to keep you and your family safe from tick bites.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can produce skin, arthritic, cardiac and neurological complications and is caused by a bite of an infected deer tick
. These ticks, often no larger than a sesame seed, must feed for 24 to 36 hours in order to transmit Lyme disease. Once infected, symptoms and their severity may vary, and can easily be overlooked. The first sign is usually a slowly expanding red "bull's eye" rash in excess of two inches at the site of the tick bite. Symptoms may be flu-like, including chills, fever, fatigue, headache, neck stiffness, jaw discomfort and pain or stiffness in muscles or joints. If left untreated, Lyme disease can progress to more serious stages, affecting the heart or central nervous system, which is why it is important to contact your doctor immediately at the first sign of a possible tick bite or infection.
A common myth is that you can easily remove a tick from your skin by burning, twisting or rotating the tick, but trying to do this will only increase the chance of becoming infected with the disease. The best way to remove a tick is with tweezers or a specialized tick-removal tool, which you can buy at local pharmacies. Disinfect the bite site and wash your hands with soap immediately after removing the tick. If the tick has already embedded itself in the skin, you should contact your doctor immediately. Studies have shown that most cases of Lyme disease are treatable with antibiotics and the earlier the treatment begins, the easier it is to prevent the long-term effects of the disease.
There are several, very simple things you can do to minimize your risk of contracting Lyme disease:
• When in wooded or grassy areas, wear light-colored long pants and long sleeved shirts. This will help you spot ticks. It may also help to tuck pants into socks and shirts into pants.
• Keep your lawn mowed.
• Stack woodpiles away from your house.
• Once indoors, do thorough checks on clothes and your entire body, paying particular attention to the backs of knees, behind ears, the scalp and back.
• Check your children and pets for attached or crawling ticks.
• Consider using insect repellents to reduce tick bites. Follow
label instructions carefully and use sparingly.
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