Getting outside and enjoying the warm weather has mega-benefits for your family’s health and well-being. Unfortunately, summer brings some risks to our outdoor activities—and a particularly dangerous one is contracting Lyme disease via tick bite.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 300,000 Lyme disease infections occur every year in the United States. The risk is greatest in New England and right here in the mid-Atlantic! Being aware of the risk and taking a few simple precautions can help you prevent tick bites and Lyme disease this summer!
Where Do Ticks Live?
Ticks tend to be found in:
- Tall grass
- Wooded areas
- Areas of shade and high humidity
If you have tall grasses or shrubs in your landscaping that people may brush against, keep them trimmed.
Best Ways to Avoid Ticks
The absolute best way to keep ticks from attaching and biting is to wear protective clothing. In addition, tick repellant can be sprayed on exposed skin as well as your clothing.
- Wear light-colored clothing. ticks can be teeny tiny; they’ll be more visible against light colors.
- Wear shoes and socks—and tuck your pants into your socks! Yes, it looks ridiculous. But it might keep you from getting a dangerous disease.
- Use tick repellant. DEET is not an effective tick repellant. You want to use a repellant that contains permethrin. Read about permethrin safety concerns and other information.
If you’ve been through an area where they may be ticks, do a tick check (see below) when you get home and toss your clothes into the dryer—dry on hottest setting BEFORE washing. The hot air of the dryer will kill the ticks. Take a shower to be sure you are free of ticks.
How to Check for Ticks
It’s important to check yourself and your children and pets for ticks. Use these tick check tips:
- Do a thorough check of these areas on yourself and your children:
- All around the waist
- Backs of the knees
- Between the legs
- In and around all head and body hair
- In and around the ears
- Inside the belly button
- Under the arms
- If you are by yourself, use a hand mirror and/or a full-length mirror to fully inspect your body
- Use your hands to feel for ticks—the small nymph ticks can be hard to spot and you don’t want to miss one
- Check your dog by using your hands to inspect his skin and a fine-tooth comb to check his hair. Get more info on checking your dog for ticks.
What to Do When You Find a Tick
Have a pair of tweezers ready when you do your tick check so you can pull any found ticks off as quickly as possible.
- Grasp the tick with the tweezers and pull upward firmly and steadily. You don’t want to leave the tick’s mouth in the skin. If this does happen, try your best to pull it out with your tweezers.
- Dispose of the tick immediately by flushing it down a toilet or sealing it in a bag or tape and throwing it in the trash.
- After removal, wash the bitten area and your hands thoroughly with alcohol or soap and water.
Learn more about tick removal from the CDC.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Symptoms indicating Lyme disease change over time.
- 3 – 30 days post-bite:
- A red, expanding “bulls-eye” rash (erythema migrans)
- Fever, chills, headache, muscle and joint aches, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes
- Days to weeks post-bite:
- More erythema migrans rashes on the body
- Increased headaches, joint pain, stiffness
- Shooting pains
- Heart palpitations and/or dizziness
- Facial palsy (Bell’s palsy) – loss of control over one or both sides of the face
See this info from the CDC for a complete list of symptoms.
If you suspect you may have been infected with Lyme disease, come to a Fast Track Urgent Care location—no appointment necessary!
More summer health and safety information from Fast Track:
- Don’t Get Burned: Ways to Avoid Sunburn
- Summer Camp Safety
- Get a Summer Camp Physical in Silver Spring