Be Tick Free

What is Lyme disease? (Excerpts from a New York State Department of Health Guide)

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria transmitted by the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). Lyme disease may cause symptoms affecting the skin, nervous system, heart and/or joints of an individual. Over 77,000 cases have been reported in the New York State Department of Health since Lyme disease became reportable in 1986.

Who gets Lyme disease?

Lyme disease can affect people of any age. People who spend time in grassy and wooded environments are at an increased risk of exposure. The chances of being bitten by a deer tick are greater during times of year when ticks are most active: March through November. Ticks can be active any time the temperature is above freezing. Young deer ticks are about the size of poppy seeds while adult deer ticks are approximately the size of sesame seeds.

How is Lyme disease transmitted?
Not all deer ticks are infected with the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Ticks can become infected when they feed on small animals that are infected. In most cases, the tick must be attached to a person for 36 hours or more before the bacteria can be transmitted. Lyme disease does not spread from one person to another.

Where do deer ticks live?
Deer ticks live in shady, moist areas at ground level. They will cling to tall grass, brush, and shrubs, usually no more than 18-24 inches off the ground. They also live in lawns and gardens, especially at the edges of woods and around old stone walls. Deer ticks cannot jump or fly, and do not drop onto passing people or animals. They get on humans and animals only by direct contact. Once a tick gets on the skin, it generally climbs upwards until it reaches a protected area.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
In 60-80 percent of cases, a rash resembling a bull’s eye or solid patch, about two inches in diameter, appears and expands around or near the site of the bite. Early symptoms usually appear within three to 30 days after the bite of an infected tick. The early stage of Lyme disease is usually marked by one or more of the following symptoms:
Chills and fever
Stiff neck
Muscle and/or joint pain
Swollen glands
If Lyme disease is unrecognized or untreated in the early stage, more severe symptoms may occur such as:
Severe fatigue
Stiff, aching neck
Tingling/numbness in the arms or legs
Facial paralysis
The most severe symptoms of Lyme disease may not appear until weeks, months or years after the tick bite. These can include:
Severe headaches
Painful arthritis
Swelling of the joints
Heart and central nervous system problems

What is the treatment for Lyme disease?

Early treatment of Lyme disease involves antibiotics and almost always results in a full cure. However, the chances of a complete sure decrease if treatment is delayed.

What can I do to prevent Lyme disease?

In tick-infested areas, your best protection is to avoid contact with soil, leaf litter and vegetation. However, if you garden, hike, camp, hunt, work, or otherwise spend time in the outdoors, you can still protect yourself with and/or without using insect repellents:.

Wear light-colored clothing with a light weave to spot ticks easily.

Wear enclosed shoes, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and shirt into pants.

Check clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors and check again once indoors.

Consider using insect repellent. Follow label directions.*

Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails. Avoid contacting vegetation.

Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls.

Keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening.

*Tick and Insect Repellent: Deciding on Their Use:

There are many different products on the market, with different ingredients, concentrations and effectiveness. The most effective contain DEET, permethrin (only to be applied to clothing), picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. If you decide to use one, be sure to follow label instructions and apply repellent carefully.

About insect repellents:

DEET (The label may say N,N diethyl-m-toluamide) comes in many different concentrations, with percentages as low as 5% or as high as 100%. In general, the higher the concentration, the higher the protection, but the risk of negative health effects goes up too. Use the lowest concentration that you think will provide the protection you need.

Picaridin (also known as KBR3023) and oil of lemon eucalyptus were registered for use in NY State in 2005. Both repellents have been shown to offer long-lasting protection against mosquito bites, but there are limited data regarding their ability to repel ticks.

Products containing permethrin are for use on clothing only, not on skin. Permethrin kills ticks and insects that come in contact with treated clothes. Permethrin products can cause eye irritation, particularly if label instructions have not been followed. Animal studies indicate that permethrin may have some cancer-causing potential. Permethrin is effective for two weeks or more if the clothing is not washed, Keep clothing in a plastic bag when not in use.

If you decide to use any repellent, carefully read and follow all label instructions before each use. On the labels, you will find important information about how to apply the repellent, whether it can be applied to skin and/or clothing, special instructions for children, hazards to humans, physical and chemical hazards and first aid.

Keep in mind: children may be at greater risk for adverse reactions to repellents, in part, because their exposure may be greater.

Keep repellents out of the reach of children.

Do not allow children to apply repellents to themselves.

Use only small amounts of repellents on children.

Do not apply repellent to the hands of young children because this may result in accidental eye contact or ingestion.

Try to reduce the use of repellents by dressing children in long sleeves and long pants tucked into boots or socks whenever possible. Use netting over strollers, playpens, etc.

When thinking about using a repellent, consider a combination of things, including where you are, how long you will be outside and how bad the bugs are, and if the bugs carry disease. Use the following questions to make a “profile” that fits your situation-this may help you decide if you want to use a repellents and, if so, which kind.

What type of pest are you concerned about?

Ticks may be more difficult to repel than mosquitoes. Repellents provide some protection against ticks, as does wearing light-colored, long sleeved shirts and long pants, with bottoms tucked in to socks and boots.

When will you be outside? Where will you be?

Some pests are more active at certain times. For example, mosquitoes are most active between duck and dawn. Ticks can be active at any time of the day. Some places are more likely to have higher activity too. Mosquitoes generally live in areas with brush and trees. Ticks prefer areas with tall grass, brush and trees.

How long will you be outside?

The longer you are out the more protection you may need. Some people exposed to high numbers of ticks and mosquitoes for long periods of time use a two-part approach. With this approach, about 33% DEET in a control release formula is applied on exposed skin, and clothing is treated with permethrin. If, on the one hand, you are going to do some yard work or have a picnic during mid-day when mosquito activity is low and you decide to use an insect repellent, DEET concentrations as low as 5% may provide sufficient protection from mosquito bites for up to about four hours.

How to Remove a Tick:
Don’t panic. Not all ticks are infected, and your risk of acquiring Lyme disease is greatly reduced if the tick is removed within the first 36 hours after attachment.

Remove the tick promptly and properly:

Using tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.

Gently pull the tick in a steady, upward motion.

Wash the area with a disinfectant.

After cleaning the area, watch the site of the bite for the appearance of a rash3 to 30 days after the bite. The rash will usually be at least 2 inches in diameter initially and will gradually expand to several inches in size.

If you develop this type of rash or flu-like symptoms, contact your health care provider immediately.

Note: Rashes smaller than the size of a quarter are usually a reaction to the bite itself and do not mean you have Lyme disease.

When trying to remove a tick DO NOT:

Touch the skin with your bare hands.

Squeeze the body of the tick as this may increase your chance of infection.

Put alcohol, nail polish remover or Vaseline on the tick.

Put a hot match or cigarette on the tick in an effort to make it “back out.”

Use your fingers to remove the tick.

These methods do not work and only increase the likelihood that tick will transmit Lyme disease to you. Applying alcohol, nail polish remover, or a hot match can irritate the tick and cause it to regurgitate its gut contents into your skin. The gut contents of a tick can contain Lyme disease-causing bacterium.

While removing a tick, if the tick’s mouthparts break off and remain in your skin, don’t worry. The mouthparts alone cannot transmit Lyme disease, because the infective body of the tick is no longer attached. The mouthparts can be left alone. They will dry up and fall out in a few days, or you can remove them as you would a splinter.

New York State Department of Health Tick Identification Service

The NYS Department of Health Tick Identification Service will tell you the species of the tick, whether it is engorged with blood and, if so, how long it may have been feeding. The Tick Identification Service will also report whether the mouthparts are present (if not, they may have remained in the skin and need to be removed, as you would a splinter). There is no charge for this service.

The NYS Tick Identification Service will not tell you whether the tick is infested with disease-causing organisms. Once you send a tick to be identified it will not be returned. If you wish to have a tick identified, place it in a small jar containing rubbing alcohol. Seal the container to prevent leakage.

Complete the Tick Identification Submittal Form at:

Mail the tick in a sealed container along with the completed Tick Identification Submittal form to:
The New York State Department of Health
Tick I.D. Service
c/o HVCC Central Receiving
80 Vanderburgh Ave, Troy, NY 12180

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