Targeting ticks to prevent Lyme disease

Tick-borne EncephalitisIt is tick time in Illinois. From early spring until late fall, deer ticks can be found in grassy and wooded areas. The Centers for Disease Control recently announced that more than 50 percent of the ­counties in the United States have ticks that carry Lyme disease. This little insect can carry many ­bacteria ­including Lyme disease and the parasite Babesia. The ticks, in infancy, can be as small as a pin head. They are brown and can attach themselves to humans anywhere on the body.

Your best defense is not to come in contact with ticks. However, there are many ways to ­protect yourself from Lyme Disease, the bacteria most often transferred.

1. Walk in the middle of trails, avoiding sitting on logs or leaning on trees.

2. Wear a hat and tuck in your hair.

3. Wear long-sleeved shirts fitted at the waist.

4. Wear shoes, no bare feet or sandals.

5. Wear long pants tucked into high socks or duct tape around pant bottoms.

6. Consider Deet for skin and ­permethrin for clothes.

7. Wear white or light colored clothing to make it easier to see the ticks.

8. Do tick checks immediately, and three days after outdoor activity, being sure to check hair.

9. Shower right away and take care to feel for bumps that could be ticks.

10. Ask your veterinarian about ­protection for your furry friends.

If you find a tick, don’t squeeze it. Using tweezers, grasp it as close to the skin as possible and pull straight out. Clean and disinfect the area bitten and wash your hands. You may wish to save the tick in a closed container, in case you need to visit a doctor.

Early signs and symptoms of Lyme disease may occur within a month if you have been infected. You may have a red bump that has grown into a rash, sometimes with a bull’s eye, but not everyone develops one. Flu-like symptoms such as long term fever, chills, fatigue, body aches and headaches, and other symptoms such as joint pain, may also be present which can lead to Lyme disease being ­initially misdiagnosed.

Write down the symptoms you are ­experiencing and make an appointment with your doctor. You may not know if you were ­bitten, but the symptoms ­persist. Be sure the doctor knows you have been in a wooded area. He or she may give you an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test, but this test can result in a false negative. A Western blot test, which is much more specific, may be required. Early treatment with antibiotics is usually the course of action.

Left untreated, Chronic Lyme Disease may occur. Some patients, who are not diagnosed within ­approximately three months, ­experience ­neurological, physical and emotional symptoms for long periods of time and must find a “Lyme” doctor to ­prescribe treatment.

For your health, and that of those you love, take preventative measures and, if bitten, seek early treatment. There are many websites with information regarding Lyme disease, and other tick-borne illnesses, including
www.lymedisease.org, www.ilads.org, and www.stopticks.org.

Linda Kehart, Community Health Consultant

Melissa Kehart, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

Source: California Lyme Disease Assoc. www.lymedisease.org

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