Lyme disease is one of the fastest-growing infectious diseases in the U.S. Here are some tips to prevent tick-borne illnesses.
Yes, there are several. Thomas Mather, PhD, a professor of medical and veterinary entomology at the University of Rhode Island, has been dubbed “The Tick Guy” for his expertise on the tiny vampires. These are his recommendations:
1. Know which kinds of ticks are in your area and learn to identify them. Not every tick variety carries Lyme disease. Knowing which ones do can help you determine whether a bite is a likely threat.
“Know the difference between deer ticks, which can carry Lyme, and wood ticks, which don’t,” Mather says. Otherwise, you may panic unnecessarily. (Find an identification guide at www.tickencounter.org.)
2. Dress to protect. Tuck your pants into high socks and wear long-sleeved shirts, tucked in at the waist, to deny ticks access. “Adult-stage ticks latch on at knee level and can easily scoot in under an untucked shirt,” Mather says.
If you’re hiking in an area with a high concentration of deer ticks, consider treating your clothes with tick repellent or wearing pretreated clothing; both are available at outdoor-gear shops. It’s best to limit your exposure to pesticides, but it’s preferable to the long-term consequences of Lyme disease.
3. Perform daily tick checks. If you’ve been hiking near your home, Mather advises running your clothes through the dryer on high heat for at least 10 minutes to disengage any ticks. (More cautious sources recommend drying for up to an hour.)
Meanwhile, conduct a thorough tick check on your body. Know that if you find deer ticks, they are unlikely to have transmitted infectious bacteria if they have been attached for less than 24 hours.
4. If you spot a tick, remove it with needle-nose tweezers. If you identify it as a deer tick and suspect it may have been attached for longer than 24 hours, see a doctor immediately. (Some experts suggest bringing the dead tick with you.) The physician may prescribe the antibiotic doxycycline, which has proven 87 percent effective against Lyme-disease symptoms if it’s taken within 36 hours of infection.
This originally appeared as I want to spend more time outside, but I’m afraid of ticks and Lyme disease. Are there easy ways to protect against this risk?” in the June 2018 print issue of Experience Life.
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