It’s spring, and while that still means flowers, returning birds, and the start of baseball, it now also means tick season. Every year over 300,000 people in the US contract Lyme Disease, transmitted by the black-legged or deer tick. The great majority of these cases are contracted in the Northeast and/or Upper Midwest, but virtually every state in the country has reported some cases.
Like virtually everything in wilderness medicine, prevention is the most important action you can take in terms of Lyme Disease. The CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/prev/on_people.html) recommends three main steps for preventing the disease:
- Avoid brushy areas or areas of high grass. Try to walk in the center of trails. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs.
- Repel ticks with DEET or permethrin. Use DEET at 20-30% strength, purchase clothes treated with permethrin, or treat clothing with 0.5% permethrin
- Find and remove ticks. Remember ticks are tiny, particularly the nymphs, the ones out in spring. The sooner ticks are removed the better, but a tick can most likely be attached for up to 24 hours before Lyme is spread. Check under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in hair. Gently remove ticks with a pair of tweezers, grabbing a tick as close to the skin as possible and pulling straight back.
For more information about Lyme Disease, including treatment, check out CDC’s site at http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/index.html.
Don’t be one of the more than 300,000 people who contract Lyme Disease in 2016. Avoid, repel, and promptly remove to enjoy the outdoors free of Lyme!