Whether it’s the summer season, a warm early spring or an unusually mild fall, it’s important to take measures to avoid tick bites. Black-legged ticks (also known as deer ticks) are prevalent in many parts of the U.S., even in September and October. Ticks infected with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria can transmit the bacteria to people, which can cause Lyme disease. Although it’s rarely fatal, Lyme disease is a serious illness. If left untreated, the infection can spread to a person’s joints, heart and nervous system. After several weeks to months, patients may also experience swelling of the membranes surrounding the brain, temporary paralysis of one side of the face and forgetfulness or confusion.
Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic other conditions and people may not recall having been bitten by a tick. But according to information released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in late August 2013, approximately 300,000 Americans are diagnosed each year—10 times the number of cases reported to the CDC. The good news is that people who receive treatment early in the disease progression are likely to make a full recovery. Here are some steps you can take to keep yourself and your family safe.
Prevention is Key
- Wear insect repellent: the CDC recommends using one with at least a 20 percent DEET concentration.
- Avoid grassy or wooded areas: if you can’t avoid such areas, wear long sleeves, long pants, shoes and a hat, along with insect repellent.
- Check yourself, family members and pets daily: you may be able to remove ticks before they attach. Make sure to check in places where ticks are known to hide, such as under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, on the back of the knees, in and around all head and body hair, between the legs and around the waist.
- Learn the correct way to remove an attached tick: removing a tick within 24 hours reduces your risk of developing Lyme disease.
- Know the symptoms: they often (but not always) include a “bull’s eye” shaped rash accompanied by fever, headache and fatigue. If you experience these symptoms, talk to your primary care physician.
How to Safely Remove a Tick
- Use fine-tipped tweezers and grasp the part of the tick that's closest to your skin (the head, not the belly).
- Slowly pull the tick straight out, without twisting it.
- Wash the bite with soap and warm water.
- Throw the dead tick into the trash. Do not use a lit match, nail polish, petroleum jelly or other topical agents to remove a tick.
- Contact your doctor.
If you are in need of a primary care physician, visit www.mygbmcdoctor.com to find one who is right for you.
This webpage is for informational purposes only and not intended as medical advice or a substitute for a consultation with a professional healthcare provider.