Virginia is one of the top 12 states for reporting Lyme disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fortunately, many steps can be taken at home to prevent tick bites and at your doctor’s office to keep Lyme disease at bay. Infected blacklegged ticks, most active from May to July, transmit Lyme disease.
In recognition of Lyme Disease Awareness Month, the CDC recently released the following advice:
- When you go outside, avoid wooded areas or places with high grass. Always walk in the center of trails.
- You can repel ticks by using a repellant that contains 20 percent or more of DEET on your skin. Just be sure to follow the product instructions. Parents should apply DEET to their children so that it doesn’t get into their eyes and mouth. Make sure to spray your clothing as well. It can stay protective after several washings, according to the CDC.
- To find ticks that may have bitten you or your children while outside, always bathe or shower as soon as you can. This can wash off ticks that may be crawling. Health professionals recommend using a mirror to look for ticks all over your body. They can bite inside the belly button, behind the ears, and in the hair. Ticks on clothing can be killed in the dryer, on high heat for one hour.
- Should you find a tick, use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers to remove it. Make sure you grab the tick as close to the skin’s surface. Pull upward with steady, even pressure, the CDC recommends. If part of the tick breaks off, remove the rest with the tweezers. Once the tick is removed, clean the area – and your hands – with rubbing alcohol.
- If you have a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, be sure to see your doctor. Other typical symptoms include headache, fatigue and an expanding skin rash that looks like a bull’s eye. Untreated, Lyme disease can affect the joints, heart and nervous system.
Fortunately, most people can be successfully treated with antibiotics if it’s caught early.
Nearly 30,000 cases of Lyme disease were reported in 2009. Children are more at risk than adults, CDC officials say, because they spend more time playing outside.
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