Prevent Tick Bites, Lyme Disease

Nearly 95 percent of Lyme disease cases in 2012 occurred in 13 states. Virginia was one of them.

The good news is that Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics if patients seek medical care in the early stages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As many of us in South Hampton Roads spend more time outside during the spring, it’s important to remember how to prevent tick bites in the first place.

Health officials advise residents to avoid areas that are wooded and bushy. If you’re hiking, stay in the center of trails.

But sometimes, it’s impossible to stay completely away from ticks. That’s why CDC authorities recommend using a repellent with at least 20 to 30 percent DEET on any skin that’s exposed and clothing. Parents should always apply repellent to their children.

Another alternative is to wear clothing that is treated with permethrin. Some pre-treated clothing will remain effective for as many as 70 washings.

After spending time outside, be sure to bathe or shower to wash off any ticks and to check for any that might be still crawling on you. Ticks can hide in the hair, behind ears and inside the belly button. All clothes should be washed and dried for an hour on high heat.

Should you find a tick on your body or on your child, CDC officials recommend the following steps for removal:

  • Grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface using fine-tipped tweezers.
  • Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Try not to twist or jerk because this can cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers.
  • Clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub or soap and water.

Not all ticks carry Lyme disease but you should call your doctor if you develop a skin rash, fever, headache and fatigue. If left untreated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Roughly 60 percent of patients with untreated infection may begin to have intermittent bouts of arthritis, with severe joint pain and swelling, according to the CDC.

+ Find a Bon Secours family practice physician near you.

+ Learn about the Bon Secours Orthopaedic Institute which helps many patients with joint problems including arthritis.

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