Lyme disease is spread by the bite of an infected tick. In the United States, an estimated 300,000 infections occur each year. If you camp, hike, work, or play in wooded or grassy places, you could be bitten by an infected tick.
Protect Yourself from Tick Bites
Know where to expect ticks. Blacklegged ticks (the ticks that cause Lyme disease) live in moist and humid environments, particularly in and near wooded or grassy areas. You may get a tick on you during outdoor activities around your home or when walking through leaves and bushes. To avoid ticks, walk in the center of trails and avoid walking through tall bushes or other vegetation.
Repel ticks on skin and clothing. Use repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin for protection that lasts several hours. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes, and mouth. Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin. It remains protective through several washings.
Perform Daily Tick Checks
Check your body for ticks after being outdoors, even in your own yard. Search your entire body for ticks when you return from an area that may have ticks. Take special care to check these parts of your body and your child’s body for ticks:
- Under the arms
- In and around the ears
- Inside the belly button
- Back of the knees
- In and around all head and body hair
- Between the legs
- Around the waist
Check clothes and pets carefully and remove any ticks. Place clothes into a dryer on high heat to kill ticks.
Remove an attached tick with fine-tipped tweezers. If a tick is attached to your skin for less than 24 hours, your chance of getting Lyme disease is extremely small; however, other diseases may be transmitted more quickly. Over the next few weeks, watch for signs or symptoms of Lyme disease such as rash or fever. See a healthcare provider if you have symptoms.
Be Alert for Fever or Rash
Even if you don’t remember being bitten by a tick, an unexpected summer fever or odd rash may be the first signs of Lyme disease, particularly if you’ve been in tick habitat. See your healthcare provider if you have symptoms.
Prevent Ticks on Animals
Prevent family pets from bringing ticks into the home by limiting their access to tick-infested areas and by using veterinarian-prescribed tick collars or spot-on treatment.
Create Tick-safe Zones in Your Yard
Remove leaves and clear tall grasses and brush around your home. Tick control chemicals are available for homeowners to use, or hire a professional pest control expert. Discourage deer, as they are the main food source of adult ticks. Keep deer away from your home by removing plants that attract deer and by constructing barriers to discourage deer from entering your yard.
KEY FACTS ABOUT TICKS
- Symptoms of Lyme disease begin 3-30 days after a tick bite; average 7 days.
- Of people who get Lyme disease, 70-80% develop a rash, called an erythema migrans.
- The ticks that transmit Lyme disease can sometimes cause other diseases, too.
- Only blacklegged ticks transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.