The first step to preventing Lyme disease is wearing long sleeve shirts, and long pants tucked into your socks when you’re in the woods or working on your backyard, said a Family Medicine professor. “I have had multiple patients develop Lyme disease just from mowing their lawn,” said Dr. Alan Peterson, who serves on the board of the Partnership for Public Health. Click on this video!
He called the explosion of Lyme disease cases here an “epidemic.” Pennsylvania has more Lyme disease cases than anywhere else in the country. About 9,000 people were diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2016 alone, the last full year reports were available. The same year, 456 cases were found in Lancaster County, according to health records from the state. And in two months alone last year, WellSpan Hospital treated more than 900 patients in Lancaster and Lebanon counties for Lyme disease.
“Wear bug spray with DEET in a concentration of 20-30% for a good eight-hour protection to keep ticks off, but be sure to read the instructions before using it,” Peterson said. “Alternatives to DEET can be Picaridin or IR 3535. Permethrin can be sprayed on clothes and foot ware,” said Dr. Peterson.
It is important that you check your skin for ticks, focusing on your head, armpits and groin after being outside, he said.
“If you find a tick, use fine point tweezers or forceps to carefully remove it by grasping the tick as close to your skin as possible. Gently pull out the tick using a slow and steady upward motion. Avoid twisting or squeezing the tick, if possible. Don’t handle the tick with bare hands,” said Peterson.
After removing the tick, make sure to wash your hands, as well as the tick site. When washing the tick site, make sure to use warm water and soap, rubbing alcohol, or an iodine scrub.
“Some other precautions you can take is keeping your lawn mowed, remove piles of leaves or wood from your yard, install a fence to keep out deer, and spray certain areas with safe pesticides,” said Peterson.
Call your doctor immediately if you develop:
- A severe headache
- Difficulty breathing
- Heart palpitations
- You aren’t able to completely remove the tick. The longer the tick remains attached to your skin, the greater your risk of getting a disease from it.
- The rash gets bigger. A small red bump may appear at the site of the tick bites. This is normal. But if it develops into a larger rash, perhaps with a bull’s-eye pattern, it may indicate Lyme disease.
- Also consult your doctor if signs and symptoms disappear because you may still be at risk of the disease.
- You develop flu-like signs and symptoms. Fever, chills, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and a headache may accompany the rash.
- You think the bite site is infected. Signs and symptoms include redness or oozing.
- If you get a high fever with a different rash, it could be Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from a tick bite, which is an emergency. Ticks carrying those diseases and many more can now be found in Pennsylvania.