August 2017 Nurse’s Blog

Prevent Lyme Disease

Increased Lyme disease infections caused by ticks have been reported to me. Lyme disease is spread by the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Common symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and skin rash, which may look like a bull’s eye. If left untreated, this infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. However, in 20% of cases no symptoms occur in early disease. Lyme disease can be treated with several weeks of oral antibiotics. A blood test can confirm the disease. There is no immunization for humans. Reduced exposure to tick bites is the best way to avoid this disease. The US Center for disease control recommends these steps to prevent  Lyme disease:

  • Avoid walking in woody, brushy areas and long grass or leaf strewn areas.
  • Walk on trails and stay in the center of the paths.
  • Repel ticks by using DEET repellents on your skin and Permethrin repellents on clothing. The EPA has an online tool to help you select the safest and best products for you and your family. Some sources recommend natural repellents, do research on mixed oils with garlic oil and lemon grass before relying on these repellents.
  • After outdoor activities bathe or shower to wash off or find ticks walking on you. Check under arms, ears, behind knees, between legs and in your hair.
  • Examine your clothing for ticks. Ten minutes in the dryer on high heat will kill ticks. If you need to launder clothes, use hot water, as cold water will not kill ticks. If you can’t use high heat on your clothes use low heat for 90 minutes. Remember ticks are small. Some might look like pepper!
  • Dogs frequently pick up ticks. Check them daily for ticks. Use tick preventatives recommended by your Vet. Remove ticks as soon as observed. It usually takes 24 hours of attachment to spread Lyme disease to your dog.
  • You can make your yard less attractive to ticks! Clear tall grasses and brush, mow lawns frequently and make a barrier around play equipment with wood chips to discourage ticks. Also remove old furniture and trash that ticks might hide in.

One last note, how do you remove a tick that bites you or your dog? Remove the tick immediately, remember disease transmission occurs after a long time of attachment. Use fine tipped tweezers and grasp the tick near the skin surface. Pull upward with steady even pressure. If the tick breaks apart, remove all broken parts. After removal thoroughly clean the bite area with soap and water, rubbing alcohol or iodine.

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Pat Woerheide, RN