Warmer weather brings about critters that may be capable of causing illness. Of particular concern in the North Country is the deer tick, which is capable of causing a serious illness, called Lyme disease.
A person infected with Lyme disease may develop fever, fatigue, headache or a skin rash called erythema migrans. The rash is sometimes referred to as a “bull’s-eye” rash because of its red circular appearance. If Lyme disease is not detected early and left untreated, the infection can spread to the joints, the heart and the nervous system causing facial paralysis, swelling in the brain and/or pain and numbness in the hands, feet and other areas of the body.
The tick needs to be embedded in the body for several hours to be able to transmit the illness. Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. Not all deer ticks carry the disease, and many measures can be taken to prevent transmission of this illness as well as other tick-borne illness.
The risk of encountering a tick increases as a person moves away from paved and mowed areas and gets into grassy areas. Ticks move around tall grass and heavy underbrush. If people walk through this vegetation, they are likely to pick up a tick.
If engaging in an activity that requires walking through dense foliage, wear light-colored clothes so a tick may be easily spotted. Apply an insect repellent per manufacturer’s instruction to deter ticks. It is important to tuck pants into socks and shirts into pants. This will help with tick visibility before it has a chance to get under the clothing. Ticks that are just crawling on clothing or skin cannot make someone ill.
It is important to check frequently for ticks after certain outdoor activities. Remove clothing and check for ticks in the shower. Ticks are very small, and they can easily be missed unless thoroughly checked. They tend to move towards dark, moist areas, such as the groin or armpits. Clothing that is removed should be placed in the dryer for 20-30 minutes to kill unseen ticks. Children and pets also should be checked carefully.
If a tick is found embedded on the skin, it should be removed promptly and carefully. The tick’s mouth should be grasped as close to the skin as possible with fine-tipped tweezers. Pull outward in a smooth, steady motion. Avoid twisting or jerking as this may leave parts of the tick in the skin and could force infected fluid further into the skin. After removing the tick, clean the area with warm soap and water and wash your hands. An antiseptic should be applied. The tick may be saved in a zip-locked bag and placed in the freezer for future examination if symptoms develop. Symptoms generally develop within one month after infection.
If flu-like illness, rashes or generalized ill feelings develop after a tick bite of, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Timely diagnosis and treatment will speed recovery and prevent lasting symptoms.
There is no vaccine against Lyme disease, so wearing the right clothing in tick-infested areas and early removal of ticks remain the most important prevention measures.
For more information about Lyme disease, visit www.cdc.gov
or call Army Public Health Nursing at 772-6404.