Steps To Protect Yourself From Lyme Disease
Summer is almost here and many of us are already heading for the hills. It’s time to go exploring through the vast hiking trails, go camping in the woods or enjoy a blissful sunny afternoon at a family picnic. In these idyllic situations, there is nothing that can ruin these perfect days … right? Wrong!
In come those pesky little bugs – ticks. They are usually incredibly tiny when they latch on to you, but after feasting on your blood and engorging. Tick bites are generally painless and it could be days before you notice them. The bite itself isn’t a worry, unless the tick that has attached itself to you is carrying the Borrelia Bacterium which causes Lyme disease.
Lyme disease isn’t always easy to detect as the first symptoms like fever, chills and fatigue, closely resemble the flu. In the early stages, Lyme disease can be treated quite successfully. However, if left untreated, it can be fatal.
Prevention is always better than cure and even more so with Lyme disease. Before you head out into the wilderness during these warmer months, take these preventative measures to protect yourself from tick bites and the potential for Lyme disease.
1. Minimize Exposed Skin
One of the best ways to prevent a tick attaching itself to you is to cover up when you are walking around forests or grassy areas. That means minimizing the amount of skin you have exposed. Wearing hiking pants and breathable, long sleeved shirts will protect the larger areas of your skin. If the tick can’t find a patch of skin, it can’t latch on and do any damage.
2. Spray On Some Repellent
Unless you have super powers that allow you to put a force shield around yourself and your fellow adventurers, you need to find another way to protect yourself. Spraying on bug repellent before you head out will keep those bugs at bay. Look for repellents that have a DEET (N,N-Diethyl-m-tolu amide) concentration of 20% or more. This product won’t kill ticks or mosquitos, but they don’t like the smell so will bypass you in favour of another victim. Spray over all exposed skin areas, but avoid getting it in your eyes.
3. Make Your Yard Less Enticing For Ticks
You may be under the illusion that ticks are things you can only pick up in wooded areas or fields with long grass. For the most part, that is true. However, ticks can live anywhere and that includes the suburban backyard. Keep your shrubbery and trees trimmed and mow your lawn regularly.
4. Tick Proof Your Camp Site
Tents are not just temporary housing for campers. They can also protect your from a variety of bug bites, but only if you’ve turned them into a safe haven by using mosquito nets. If your tent doesn’t have a mosquito net, get one. Whether you have a tent or a portable gazebo, make sure they have mosquito nets to protect you from all the little nasties that like to feast on warm-blooded mammals.
5. Do A Complete Check When You Get Indoors
Ticks can wander around a potential host for hours before they actually attach themselves for a feasting. As soon as you get indoors, remove all of your outdoor clothing. Make sure you check the clothing for ticks. You’ll probably already be wanting and needing a shower, so give yourself a good scrub. Use a washcloth in the shower, as this will remove any ticks that haven’t latched on yet. Once you’re clean and dry, check your whole body in case one of those little creepers has invited himself to dinner.
Once you are certain you are tick free, check the rest of your family, especially young children. In particular, check the softer skin areas such as under the armpits, around the neck and inside knee and elbow joints. If you like to take your dogs out with you, make sure you check them too.
Keep in mind that you may not feel a tick bite and young ticks are no bigger than pinhead so you may not notice them straight away. If you have been in an area populated with ticks, it may be a day or two before you really notice them. Check yourself, your kids and pets for a few days after being out in the woods.
6. Remove Any Ticks You Find Fast
Unfortunately, no matter how vigilant you are in preventing a tick from latching on to you, there will always be a determined one that will find a way to burrow into your skin. As soon as you discover a tick, remove it as quickly and safely as you can. Apply some rubbing alcohol around the tick and using tweezers or a tick removal tool, press down onto the skin and gently pull it out. Try to remove the entire tick. If the head remains stuck, don’t poke around as you may be unknowingly releases a whole host of nasties into your blood stream. Using a sterile needle, try to gently remove the tick head. Once you have completely removed the tick, apply an anti-bacterial ointment to the bite site.
7. Watch Out For Symptoms
Ticks bites generally don’t cause any serious illness but the bite site can become infected so caution is always advised. Only a small percentage of tick bites result in Lyme disease, but to be on the safe side, you should assume that every tick bite can potentially cause Lyme disease.
If you have been bitten by a tick, remove it as quickly as possible and clean the affected area. Once you’ve done that, watch out for any symptoms of Lyme disease. They include things like rashes, sore throats, headaches, swollen lymph nodes and other symptoms that are very similar to the flu. If you do have any of these symptoms after being bitten by a tick, you should seek see your doctor immediately. Lyme disease is very rarely fatal but the sooner you have it treated, the sooner you recover.