By Joel Burdeaux

A little girl playing in a field near high grass. The words "Lyme disease awareness month" in green

 

May is the time of year that many people start to spend more time outdoors. The cool mornings and evenings are so inviting, and it’s nice to get out and enjoy nature after being cooped up because of the cold.

But, this time spent outdoors is not without risk. This is also the beginning of the season that the ticks carrying the bacteria that cause Lyme disease are most active. Research estimates that about 300,000 Americans get Lyme disease each year. [1]

WHAT IS LYME DISEASE?

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks, or deer ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.

Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. [2]

WHAT ARE TICKS AND HOW DO THEY TRANSMIT LYME DISEASE?

Lyme Disease infographic

Ticks are small crawling bugs that have eight legs and are related to spiders and mites. They are arachnids, not insects, and are parasites that feed on the blood of humans and animals in order to survive. They are called vectors (carriers) because they can feed on a Lyme disease-infected animal (such as a mouse), then carry and transmit the Lyme bacterium to the next animal or person they bite. [3]

Ticks that carry Lyme disease are active year-round and can survive in below-freezing temperatures, although their peak season of activity begins in April and runs through September. During this time, the hungry nymphal tick (about as small as a poppy seed) actively seeks a host, and its bite poses the greatest risk. [4]

WHERE ARE THE TICKS THAT CARRY LYME DISEASE FOUND?

Ticks prefer moist shady areas. “Deer tick,” the name commonly used for the species of ticks that carry Lyme disease, is somewhat of a misnomer. Although deer are important as reproductive hosts in the life cycle of these ticks, other vertebrate animals actually infect the ticks with disease organisms — not the deer.

Lyme disease ticks can be found in:

  • Leaf litter
  • Woodpiles
  • Stonewalls
  • Tall grass, bushy areas and beach grass
  • Lawn perimeters where they meet forest, woodlot or garden edges

Late spring and early summer is the most common time for humans to come in contact with these ticks, but the risk remains until September.

HOW TO PREVENT LYME DISEASE

The Global Lyme Alliance recommends using this helpful tool to make sure you are “Tick A.W.A.R.E.”

AVOID areas where ticks live. Ticks thrive in wood piles, leaf litter, long grass, beach grass, bushy areas, stone walls, and perimeters where the lawn meets the woods.

WEAR light-colored clothing to spot ticks more easily; long-sleeved shirt tucked in at the waist, long pants tucked into high socks, closed-toe shoes, and a hat with your hair tucked in, if possible. Do not walk in the grass barefoot or in open sandals, even if it’s cut short.

APPLY EPS-approved tick repellent or insecticide to skin, clothing, and shoes as directed.

REMOVE clothing upon entering the home; toss into the dryer at high temperature for 10-15 minutes to kill live ticks. Putting them in the washer, however, will not.

EXAMINE yourself and your pets for ticks daily. Feel for bumps paying close attention to the back of knees, groin, armpits, in and behind the ears, belly button, and scalp. Check everywhere – ticks love to hide! Shower or bathe as soon as possible to wash away unattached ticks. If you find a tick, remove it quick! The longer it is attached, the more likely it will transmit a disease. [5]

Dogs are also at risk of tick bites if they are in any of the areas mentioned above. Talk to your veterinarian about proper prevention techniques.

HOW TO REMOVE A TICK

If a tick is attached to your skin, don’t panic. Keep calm and remove it properly and promptly using fine-pointed tweezers or special tick-removal tweezers. By removing the tick as soon as you can, you reduce the chance that you, a family member, or pet will get infected.

 

 

  1. Using fine-pointed tweezers, grasp the tick at the place of attachment, as close to the skin as possible.
  2. Gently pull the tick straight out with steady, even pressure. Do not squeeze, twist, or jerk the tick.
  3. Do not touch the tick with your bare hands.
  4. Wash your hands with soap & water, apply rubbing alcohol or antiseptic to bite site.
  5. Place the tick in a zippered plastic bag with a moist cotton ball and bring it to your local health department or private lab for testing.
  6. If a rash appears, take a photo, write down any symptoms you may have, and call/visit your doctor immediately. [6] [7]

RAISE AWARENESS OF LYME DISEASE

Now that you are armed with the knowledge of how to prevent Lyme disease, get out there, and spread the word. This year is trickier than others due to social distancing and other methods to stop the spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19, but there are still ways to help.

Share helpful information on social media. If this article was helpful to you, share it. If not, find one that is and share it. The important thing is to get the information out there.

Put together an information packet or flyer full of information for people to take with them. Get permission to leave these at clinics, grocery stores, restaurants, etc…

Order customized silicone wristbands with a message about Lyme disease and ticks on it. You can even order each wristband individually bagged so that the number of people touching them between production and wearer is greatly reduced.

If you’re ready to order your wristbands, simply click below to go directly to our world-class design tool.

Design Custom Wristbands

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/stats/humancases.html

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/index.html

[3] https://globallymealliance.org/about-lyme/prevention/about-ticks/

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://globallymealliance.org/about-lyme/prevention/

[6] https://globallymealliance.org/about-lyme/prevention/tick-removal/

[7] Video Source and Creator: Kathryn Rochon, Ph.D., The University of Manitoba

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