March 29, 2021
As you and your family get ready to enjoy the outdoors, it’s important to protect yourself against tick bites. People living in Pennsylvania and most of the Northeast are at increased risk of contracting Lyme disease. To get Lyme disease, you must be bitten by a blacklegged tick infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Late spring and early summer typically bring about an increase in the number of cases. Learn the symptoms of Lyme disease and steps you can take to keep you and your family safe.
Southeastern PA + Spring = Lyme Disease Alert
According to the Department of Environmental Protection, there is risk for the spread of Lyme disease in every county in Pennsylvania. In 2019 more than 9,000 cases of Lyme disease were reported in Pennsylvania. The peak of cases occurs in June and July, but can occur year-round.
What are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease?
Symptoms of Lyme disease typically appear 7 to 14 days after being infected. Some people develop flu like symptoms (chills, fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle/joint aches), while others may notice only a bulls-eye type rash. However, not everyone develops the characteristic rash.
Treatment is Effective When Started Early
When Lyme disease is detected early, it can be very successfully treated with two to four weeks of antibiotics. If untreated, serious complications affecting the joints, nervous system, and heart can result. If you are concerned you may have Lyme disease, it is important to see your doctor promptly.
Preventing Lyme Disease
There is no vaccine to protect against Lyme disease, but there are relatively easy steps you can take to avoid developing the disease:
- Wear light-colored long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and socks when in wooded areas with high grass where ticks like to live. Tuck pants legs into socks or boots; and shirts into pants.
- Wear a hat.
- Wear insect repellent that contains 20-30% DEET on clothing and exposed skin (not face) when outdoors. Apply sparingly on exposed skin.
- Do a full body tick check after spending time outdoors. Check your children carefully, including around the ears, under the arms, inside the belly button, and scalp. Blacklegged ticks are the size of poppy seeds and can be hard to see.
- Shower soon after being outdoors to wash off ticks that haven’t attached to your skin.
- Call your doctor if you develop a fever, rash or muscle or joint pain.
How to Remove a Tick
There’s no need to panic if you do find at tick attached to your or your child’s skin. Prompt and proper removal of the tick helps prevent possible transmission of Lyme disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you take these 4 steps:
- Grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible with fine-tipped tweezers
- Pull upward with even pressure. Don't twist the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
- Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor. Be sure to mention your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick.
Enjoy the Outdoors with Caution
Ticks don’t usually transmit the bacterium that causes Lyme disease until they’ve been attached to your skin for at least 36 hours. By taking action in a timely manner, or better yet, preventing tick bites altogether, you can enjoy your favorite outdoor activities.