How to Prevent Tick Bites and Lyme Disease

Now that summer is here, everyone will certainly get the itch to head to the woods, campground, the beach, local playground, or a back yard cookout. For those of us camping and hiking, we look to get back to nature in order to seek peace and solace. But as with any outdoor activity, some precautions must be taken. For example, when camping, food needs to be carefully stored to keep the critters away. When hiking, the main concern may not be a large furry animal like a bear but rather something significantly smaller and yet potentially represents a bigger threat: Ticks.

Ticks are the primary carrier of Lyme disease. Lyme is caused by the bacterium Borrelea burgdorferi transported by black-legged ticks, commonly called deer ticks. They thrive in humid environments and live mainly near wooded or grassy areas. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York, New Jersey and 10 other states across the country represented 94% of confirmed Lyme disease cases in 2010. A remarkable statistic indeed! However, this should not prevent enthusiasts seeking outdoor fun. In fact, the CDC also reports that only 1% of tick bites actually results in Lyme disease if the appropriate steps are taken.

Preventing Tick Bites While Outdoors

What steps, then, should be taken? First of all, when hiking in the woods make sure to stay in the center of the trail to avoid contact with overgrown tall grass or brush. More importantly, apply on the skin the most effective bug repellent known as DEET. While there are different levels, 20%-30% tends to be the appropriate range without having to use higher doses, says the CDC. As for clothing and gear, like boots and your daypack, the CDC recommends using the chemical Permethrin. Also, purchase lighter clothing, especially pants, as it is easier to see any crawling ticks on your legs. Upon returning home, thoroughly examine your body, preferably with a hand-held mirror and make sure to bathe or shower within two hours. Finally, check your pets and the kids.

What To Do When You Find A Tick On You

If a tick is discovered, the CDC recommends using fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. With steady and even pressure, pull upward. Then, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with soap and water. The chances of Lyme are relatively small if the bite is detected in less than 24 hours. If not immediately detected, the quintessential sign is a red, expanding rash referred to scientifically as erythema migrans. In layman terms, it simply resembles a bull’s eye target. The CDC states the rash develops anywhere from 3-30 days, but the average is 7. Other symptoms include fatigue, chills and headaches.

Subsequent measures include visiting your doctor so he/she can perform blood work to ascertain whether Lyme has developed. If positive, treatment usually consists of a 3-4 week regime of antibiotics, of which Doxycycline is normally prescribed for adults. If left untreated, more severe symptoms will emerge, such as muscle weakness in the face along with joint pain and swelling, especially in the knees.

So, while ticks and Lyme disease need to be taken seriously, please do not let it deter you from enjoying the great outdoors. As with any activity, like driving for instance, certain procedures should be followed. Knowledge and awareness of your surroundings are essentially preventative measures designed to render your adventure both enjoyable and memorable.

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  • Joemeyers44

    As one who has suffered through Lyme disease and its lingering effects, I can testify to the fact that it is of the highest importance to at least use insect repellent. My Lyme disease effected my right knee, causing sever swelling for nigh two months and a very frustrating summer indoors. What is important to note is that I never had found a tick on me, displayed the “bulls-eye” rash, or had any other physical symptoms. Now a year later, I make it a point that if a tick is found on me I remove, put it in a sealed container, and take it to my physician’s lab for testing immediately. Happy trails, everyone!

  • A lot of great advice on this issue!

  • rkfmn

    Any ticks that are attached for any length of time should be saved. I have used small containers (35mm film canisters or similar)- or fold them into a piece of scotch tape, and write down date of bite. The physicians at our clinic in Iowa send the tick to the entomology dept @ IA State Univ for identification if patient shows Lyme symptoms. This is merely an aid to diagnosis.
    I had a Lyme positive test from the Mayo Clinic after severe early symptoms. My doctor thankfully had already started me on Doxycycline even before the results from Mayo or the confirmation of the species of tick from ISU, even tho one of my 2 bites was short and the other long of the typical incubation period. I recovered quickly and completely thanks to early intervention.

  • Mike

    If You find Ticks crawling on You, take a piece of Duct tape and catch them using the sticky side