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How to Prevent Lyme Disease

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Lyme disease cases have tripled in the country over the past 20 years, infecting approximately 300,000 Americans each year.1 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported estimates of new Lyme disease cases in the U.S. that will make you cringe:2

25,000 cases per month

5,770 cases per week

822 cases per day

34 cases per hour

According to Dr. Paul Mead, chief of the epidemiology and surveillance for CDC’s Lyme disease program: “This new preliminary estimate confirms that Lyme disease is a tremendous public health problem in the United States, and clearly highlights the urgent need for prevention.” 3

Despite these alarming reports, taking the right precautions, particularly before gardening, hiking, camping or playing outdoors, can help you avoid Lyme disease.4

Know Where Ticks Lurk

The rapid spread of the ticks that transmit Lyme disease across the U.S. is the primary reason this health problem is so prevalent today.5

Ticks, particularly blacklegged ticks or deer ticks (the ticks that cause Lyme disease), live in moist, humid and shady areas, such as bushy spaces at ground level. They usually cling to tall grasses and shrubs.6

Ticks cannot jump or fly, and they get on humans and animals only through direct contact. If you are in tick-infested areas, walk at the center of trails to avoid leaf litter and overgrown grass.7 Also, avoid sitting directly on the ground, logs and stone walls or leaning on trees.8

Check for Ticks Daily

The first line of defense is a thorough daily tick check after being outdoors. Removing the ticks as quickly as possible can reduce your risk of infection, as bacteria are not transmitted until a tick has been attached to your skin for at least 24 hours. Check your clothing and pets for ticks, and take extra precaution when checking these parts of your body:9

In and around all head and body hair

In and around the ears

Under the arms

Around the knees

Between the legs

According to the CDC, you should avoid areas of thick vegetation, use a strong repellent and bathe after being outdoors, to avoid contact with Lyme disease-carrying ticks.10

Remove Ticks Safely

If you find a tick attached to you, grasp it as close to the surface of the skin as possible using a fine-tipped tweezer. Do not touch or remove it with your bare hands. Gently pull the tick straight up and out. If you jerk, squeeze or twist the tick, this can cause parts of the mouth to break off, which may cause infection. Wash the area thoroughly with soap and water.11 To kill any remaining ticks, tumble clothes in the dryer on high heat for 60 minutes.12

Be Alert for Lyme Symptoms

You may get a small reddish bump after getting bitten by a tick, although this is usually not a sign that you have Lyme disease. However, watch for possible signs and symptoms of infection in the next few days, such as fever and the “bull’s-eye” rash. Do the same even if you don’t remember being bitten by a tick (these blood-suckers numb your skin so you may not even feel the bite), especially if you have been to a tick-infested area recently.

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