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Monday, June 1, 2020

National Lyme Disease Awareness Month: How to Protect Yourself, Loved Ones, and Pets

Photo by Mabel Amber (pixabay)

May is National Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Spread by infected ticks via biting, the CDC estimates that about 300,000 infections are reported annually. Do you spend time in grassy or wooded areas? If so, you are at risk of being bitten by a tick carrying the disease. People who live or visit the Mid-Atlantic states, New England, and the upper Midwest are the most significant risk. However, ticks carrying the disease are also found in neighboring states, and some areas of California, Washington, and Oregon. No matter your location, you can take preventions to ensure that a fun afternoon spent on playground equipment doesn't result in a bite by an infected tick.

1. Avoid where ticks live, such as woodpiles, leaf litter, long grass, beach grass, bushy areas, and perimeters where the lawn meets the woods.

Photo by Annie Spratt (pixabay)

Blacklegged ticks are the species that carry Lyme disease. They thrive in moist or humid locations and are found around wooded or grassy spots. Taking simple precautions like walking down the center of a trail and avoiding walking through bushes or high vegetation will reduce your risk of being bitten. Remember, ticks also thrive around your home, especially in areas with woodpiles or un-raked leaves.

2. Wear high socks that are light-colored so you can see them.

Photo by PublicDomainPictures (pixabay)

High socks provide fantastic protection against ticks. Give yourself even more protection by choosing light-colored socks and other clothing. They are easier to spot against lighter shades, so you'll be able to see the ticks and remove them from your clothing.

3. Wear light-colored clothing. Tuck your pants into your socks. Tuck your shirt into your pants.

Photo by Ben Kerchkx (pixabay)

You can prevent tick bites by limiting a tick's access to your skin. Wear well-fitting clothes that are tucked in. This can prevent ticks from flying up a pant leg, or down a neckline.

4. Avoid walking in grass or hiking with open-toe shoes.

Photo by Ich bin dann mal raus hier (pixabay)

Bare or exposed feet (like those in sandals or flip flops) provide easy access for ticks to bite. Feet tend to be warm and humid, and the areas between toes are excellent hiding places. Avoid this risk by wearing closed-toe shoes or hiking boots when in grassy areas.

5. Remove clothing when you arrive home and put them in the dryer for 10-15 minutes on high heat.

Photo by Steve Buissinne (pixabay)

Your dryer is a great way to kill ticks. Ticks need moisture to survive and they can't survive long in a hot, dry environment. If you have clothes that may have attracted ticks, put them in the dryer for 10-15 minutes. Don't put them in the washing machine first since ticks love moisture. A dry run in the heat will destroy ticks in clothing and other fabrics.

6. Examine yourself and your pets frequently when outdoors and when you come in.

Photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam (pixabay)

When you or family members (including pets) come inside from being outdoors, always check for ticks. Many people find using a mirror makes the process easier. Pay special attention to the area under the arms, around the ears, in the belly button, on the back of knees, around all hairlines, and the waist. Follow the same routine with your pets. Also, remember to keep your outdoor area free of debris. Ticks can hide in old rotting wood structures like old play sets. If you have one of these in your yard, it might be time for a replacement. Contact local outdoor play equipment companies and stores.

7. Consider tick prevention medications for pets. There are oral and topical solutions. Check with your vet to make sure the medications are safe for your pet.

Photo by Mirko Sajkov (pixabay)

The Federal Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency have approved many tick prevention medications for cats and dogs. Topical treatments come in the form of treated dusts, sprays, shampoos, and collars, and there are oral options as well. Pet owners should choose the method they think will be most effective, but it's essential the instructions regarding species, age, and size of the pet are followed precisely to protect the health of the animal.

8. Learn how to remove a tick properly.

Photo by Catkin (pixabay)

The best way to remove a tick is with fine-tipped tweezers. Ticks removed within 24 hours of attaching to a host lower the chances the person bitten will contract Lyme disease. After removing the tick, watch for symptoms of Lyme disease (like a fever or rash) for a few weeks. Contact your primary care doctor with any concerns.?

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