Tips for tick season

Posted on June 17, 2014

The words “tick” and “Lyme disease” make many of us shiver regardless of the warm weather— and with good cause.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that some 300,000 people are diagnosed with tick-transmitted Lyme disease every year in the United States—and Massachusetts is one of the top “hot” zones. Ticks can also carry other diseases, such as babesiosis, which can be severe among seniors, newborns and people with weakened immune systems. 

Tick-season reminders

  1. Prevention
    Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter, where ticks thrive. Apply a tick repellant on skin and clothing that contains at least 20% DEET. 
  2. Precautions
    If you’ve been in tick-prone areas, conduct a full-body tick check (partner with someone to check hard-to-see areas). Shower as soon as possible and dry clothes on high heat for up to an hour to kill any attached ticks.
  3. Act fast if bitten
    If you do find a tick on you, use fine-tipped tweezers, placed as close to its mouth as you can, and gently pull to remove it, then wash the bite area with a lot of warm water and soap.

Not all ticks carry disease. The culprit is an infected blacklegged tick, which must be attached to you for at least 24 hours before it can transmit disease. That’s why it’s so important to routinely check for ticks, especially after gardening, camping, hiking and playing outdoors, and to remove a tick as soon as you find it. There’s no vaccine for Lyme disease.

About Lyme

Lyme disease is diagnosed by considering your possible exposure to ticks and the symptoms you have.

Symptoms mimic the flu:

  • fatigue
  • chills
  • fever
  • headache
  • muscle and joint aches
  • swollen lymph nodes

A telltale sign of Lyme disease is the appearance, usually within a week of the bite, of a reddish “bulls-eye” rash that gradually expands. If caught early, most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics. 

If you’ve been in tick-prone areas, be sure to discuss any of the above symptoms with your doctor.

Originally published in Healthy Communities, Spring/Summer 2014

The information written about in this blog is not intended to be medical advice. Please seek care from a medical professional when you have a health concern.