Tick Season Means Lyme Disease

Five ways you can prevent dangerous tick bites this summer

(RxWiki News) Lyme disease is a well-known risk tied to tick bites, so for those living in certain areas, a tick bite can be a nerve-racking experience. But there are ways to lower your risk.

Lyme disease is transmitted through tick bites and can lead to fever, headaches, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash. Without treatment, this disease can affect the nervous system, heart and joints.

Approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year. However, this number is much lower than the number of Lyme disease cases the CDC estimates are diagnosed across the United States annually.

Based on studies, the CDC actually estimates that 300,000 Lyme disease infections occur in the US each year.

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. There are many types of ticks, and not all ticks transmit this bacteria. Only infected blacklegged ticks transmit Lyme disease.

In addition, only blacklegged ticks in certain areas of the US are commonly infected. These areas include the Northeast (Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia) and the Midwest (Minnesota and Wisconsin). Some infections have been reported in Northern California.

In order for these blacklegged ticks to transmit Lyme disease, they have to be attached for at least 24 hours. This is why it's extremely important to promptly and regularly check your body for ticks if you live in these areas and remove the tick immediately if found.

If you are planning to spend time outdoors this summer, follow these five tips to keep yourself and your family tick-free.

1. Prevent tick bites

Ticks live in grassy or wooded areas, so if you will be spending time outdoors, apply insect repellent as directed by product instructions.

Look for products that contain any of the insect repellents recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol or 2-undecanone.

Furthermore, you can treat your clothing with permethrin.

2. Perform tick checks

If you have spent time outdoors, check yourself for ticks — even if you were just spending time in your own yard. For not-so-visible areas of the body, use a handheld mirror. Although you will need to check your entire body, pay extra attention to the following areas:

  • Under the arms
  • In and around the ears
  • Inside the belly button
  • Backs of the knees
  • In and around all head and body hair
  • Between the legs
  • Around the waist

Also, remove any ticks found on your clothing. And shower within two hours of coming inside from the outdoors.

3. Look for the bull's-eye rash

One of the symptoms of Lyme disease is a characteristic rash. The rash looks like a red bull's eye and is hard to miss. If you notice this type of rash, contact your doctor.

4. Remove ticks quickly and correctly

As soon as you notice a tick, remove it with fine-tipped tweezers. Be sure to hold the tick as close to the skin as possible. Next, pull straight up without twisting or crushing the tick. If you twist or jerk the tick, there is a chance the mouth-parts will break off and remain in the skin. (If the mouth-parts remain, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth-parts easily, you can leave it alone, letting the skin heal.)

Next, clean the area and your hands with soap and water or rubbing alcohol. Then, discard the tick by placing it in alcohol, sealing it in a bag, wrapping it in tape or flushing it down the toilet.

If it has been less than 24 hours since the tick attached itself to your skin, your chance of getting Lyme disease is small. It is important to note, however, that ticks may transmit other diseases. Continue to monitor for rash or fever. If you notice a red bull's-eye rash or a fever, contact your health care provider.

5. Make sure your yard is tick-free

Wherever there are deer, there may be ticks. Deer are the main food source of adult ticks. Try to keep deer away from your yard. Create a barrier to prevent deer from entering your yard, and remove plants that may attract deer.

In addition, make sure your yard is well-maintained to remove potential tick hiding places. This means clearing tall grasses and brush.

Speak with your local community pharmacist for help with all of your summer health needs.

Written by Anyssa Garza, PharmD, BCMAS