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It’s summertime—everyone is out and about and having fun. But with the extra time outside comes increased susceptibility to ticks. Tick bites are known for spreading Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that affects about 300,000 Americans each year. Maryland and Virginia are among 14 states that account for about 95 percent of all cases, so it’s important that we understand ways to avoid ticks and identify and prevent the Lyme disease.
Lyme disease usually results in symptoms within the first 30 days of a tick bite. Symptoms can include:
- Bullseye rashes
- Muscle aches
Severe cases can result in long-term conditions, including:
- Bell’s palsy
- Diffuse joint pain
- Heart palpitations
- Nerve pain
Fortunately, in most cases ticks must be attached to humans for more than 24 hours to spread Lyme disease. Let’s discuss five ways to avoid tick bites and Lyme disease, and what to do if you’re bitten.
Avoid tick bites with these 5 tips
Preventing Lyme disease starts with being mindful when you’re out and about. If you’re going camping or hiking in grassy or wooded areas, follow these five tips:
- Wear long clothing: Even in the summer, choose long-sleeved shirts and pants to prevent ticks from latching on to your skin.
- Check your body for ticks: Ticks prefer warm, moist areas of the body, such as the armpits, groin, and hair. Remember to check your children, too!
- Heat your clothes in the dryer: As soon as you come inside, put your clothes in the dryer for at least 10 minutes to kill ticks on your clothes.
- Use insect repellents that contain DEET: This strong bug repellent is a common active ingredient in the most popular spray products.
- Treat clothes with pyrethrin: This synthetic insecticide helps keep ticks and other bugs away.
Related reading: 2017’s growing tick problem: How to protect yourself
What to do if you’re bitten
Most tick bites will not result in Lyme disease. If you see a tick on your skin, remove it as quickly and as completely as possible with fine-tipped tweezers. Clean the area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.
If a red rash or other symptoms mentioned start to arise, call your doctor. Be sure to indicate when you might have been exposed to ticks and when you first noticed the symptoms. The doctor will give you a physical exam and possibly a blood test to check you for Lyme disease. If the test is positive, the typical treatment is a course of antibiotics.
Avoiding Lyme disease starts with awareness and taking simple steps to avoid tick bites. Be sure to protect your family this summer and fall when you’re enjoying the great outdoors.