Here are 10 things you should know to guard against Lyme disease, an inflammatory illness that can cause arthritis, neurological and cardiac disorders.
Iowa’s confirmed cases of Lyme disease have spiked in recent years, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. In 2014, there were just 49 cases. That jumped to 250 in 2013 and 193 last year. Knowing these facts will help you protect against the disease:
- From April to June, pre-adult ticks (nymphs) are most likely to spread Lyme disease. As nymphs mature toward the end of summer, they are less likely to spread disease. So the time to be extra vigilant is right now.
- Ticks thrive in tall grasses, forested areas, moist/humid environments. If you spend time in these areas, wear long-sleeved shirts, tuck pants into high socks or boots, stay on paths or trails, and use insect repellents containing DEET according to label directions. (Do not use DEET products on children under two months of age.) Check for ticks and shower immediately after coming indoors.
- Pets often bring ticks indoors – even if they have been treated with a flea and tick preventive. Ticks can jump off your pets and onto your furnishings – or onto you. Keep your pets out of areas with high grasses and always check them for ticks after they’ve been outdoors.
- To keep ticks out of your yard, keep your grass short, remove leaf litter and brush, store woodpiles off the ground, and clean up the ground around bird feeders. Ticks don’t like sunshine, so prune back trees and low-lying bushes.
- Most – but not all – ticks are harmless. The ones to worry most about are blacklegged ticks or deer ticks, which are the primary carriers of Lyme disease. Deer ticks are really small and can appear to be new “freckles” when attached to the skin.
- Ticks most often attach to a person’s thigh, arms, underarms, and legs. But they can attach anywhere on the skin.
- To spread disease, a tick must remain attached at least 24 to 48 hours. A tick that appears swollen likely has been attached long enough.
- There’s just one good way to remove a tick. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention recommends using tweezers to carefully grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull it straight out. Be careful to not squeeze the tick’s body and do not handle ticks with your bare hands. Clean the wound and apply an antiseptic to the bite. Wash your hands.
- Folk remedies are NOT recommended. Never burn the tick with a match or cover it with petroleum jelly or nail polish. Not only are these methods ineffective, but they can also force the tick to regurgitate its gut contents, which increases the risk they’ll transmit disease.
- Symptoms of Lyme disease are not the same for everyone. However, most people will first experience a rash a few days to a month after being bitten. As the redness expands over a period of days, it begins to resemble a bull’s eye – a red center surrounded by a red ring.