May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Massachusetts is one of twelve states that are responsible for 95% of this country’s Lyme Disease cases. Here at home, Lyme Disease is Massachusetts’s second most common infectious disease. Mosquito Squad of the North Shore encourages residents to focus on awareness. Awareness is one of the top ways to protect ourselves. Here are 5 key areas to remain awareness of and heighten your vigilance of for Lyme Disease protection.
Awareness of ticks that might be on your body
When you spend time outside outdoors, do a tick check when you come in. After being outdoors, check yourself as well as others in your care such as children and pets in order to see if you find any ticks. If outdoors for a while, it makes sense to do a couple quick checks on your legs periodically. Do what is convenient for you depending on the activity and the risk of ticks in your area.
Helping children know how and what to look for when doing tick checks will help them build good tick awareness skills. It should be as natural as brushing teeth or washing hands.
If a tick is attached to your skin, don’t panic. Experts believe it takes an average of 24 hours before the Lyme bacteria are transmitted. Know how to remove ticks using pointed tweezers if you do find an attached tick.
When spending a good bit of time outdoors, think about wearing light colored clothes. Light colors will show ticks more easily. In addition, keeping your pants tucked inside your socks may look geeky but will help keep ticks off your skin. This is especially important on trails and in tall grass. Of course, when hiking on trails and other brushy areas insect repellant on clothing may deter ticks from hitching a ride on your clothes.
Eliminate or avoid tick habitats
Ticks love leaf litter. They love cool, dark, and moist areas. They can’t tolerate being in the sun for very long since they overheat if exposed to high temperatures. Removing leaf litter and brush piles reduces the hiding places for ticks around your home. If possible, create a 3’ path of gravel or low grass and vegetation between your yard and any wooded areas around your home. Ticks will find it difficult to cross this barrier during the day if there is no shade for them to stay cool.
Treat your property
We spend much of our summer outdoors in our own backyards. Health officials recommend eliminating ticks in yard areas as much as possible. With the effectiveness of barrier sprays, it is easy to reduce the number of ticks in our yards and thereby reduce our exposure to Lyme Disease.
Be aware of signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease
After taking all the preventive steps, you still need to know about the signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease. The clearest sign of Lyme Disease is a bulls-eye rash around a tick bite. Only 70% of those infected with Lyme Disease will get this rash though, so it is not the only sign you should look for to indicate you are infected.
Be sure and put any ticks you find in a clear sealed plastic bag. Your physician can have the any ticks tested for Lyme Disease if you experience any symptoms later.
It may take up to 30 days before you or a family member begin to notice headaches, painful or swollen joints, neck stiffness, shooting pains that may interfere with sleep and a rash that is warm and itchy. If you do have any of these signs or symptoms be sure and contact your physician immediately. When caught early, Lyme Disease is usually treated effectively with a course of antibiotics.
May Is Lyme Awareness Month
If you want to know more about Lyme Disease Awareness Month, you will be interested in this statement from the CDC. If you want to know more about what some communities in Massachusetts are doing about Lyme Disease, check out this Boston Globe story, A Minuscule Foe, A Massive Public Health Challenge.