Summer means spending more time outdoors, but it also means facing health risks such as Lyme disease. Lyme disease is an infection caused by a bite from an infected blacklegged tick, and it can pose a threat to your health if left untreated. Understanding the risks and preventative measures of Lyme disease is key to enjoying the great outdoors without putting yourself in danger.
Examining Tick Habitats
Ticks thrive in moist, wooded environments, so they can be found in tall grasses, bushes, and shrubs as well. Avoiding direct contact with ticks is one of the best ways to avoid Lyme disease. Stay on designated trails, avoid excessive brushing through tall grass, and keep your dog or other pets from wandering too far off the beaten path. Wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and closed-toe shoes will help to minimize areas exposed to potential bites. Applying insect repellent containing DEET is also an effective way of preventing ticks from latching onto you.
Identifying High-Risk Behaviors
Some activities put you at higher risk for tick bites than others. Camping, hiking, and spending time in the woods can expose you to ticks. When you engage in these activities, make sure to thoroughly check your body and clothing for ticks after returning indoors. Showering as soon as possible can also wash away unattached ticks that may have found their way onto your body. Remember to check your pets for ticks as well, as they can carry infected ticks into your home. Keep pets away from areas that are prone to high tick activity.
The early stages of Lyme disease can have a variety of symptoms, including a bull’s-eye rash and flu-like symptoms like fever and fatigue. If you experience a rash that looks like a bull’s-eye or other unexplained flu-like symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. The earlier you are diagnosed with Lyme disease, the more effective your treatment options can be. Remember that not all people with Lyme disease develop the bull’s-eye rash, so it is important to be aware of all symptoms.
Examining Geographic Risk Factors
Lyme disease is most common in the northeastern and upper Midwest regions of the United States, though it can occur in any part of the country. Risk factors for Lyme disease are based on geography and ecosystem factors such as a humid climate that provides an ideal breeding ground for ticks. People spending time in wooded or brushy areas are also more vulnerable to tick bites. While certain seasons, such as summer and fall, are higher-risk times for Lyme disease infection, it’s still important to remain diligent when spending time outdoors year-round.
Evaluating Preventative Measures
Preventing Lyme disease is essential to avoid the potential long-term effects of the disease. To minimize the risk of tick bites, use insect repellent that contains DEET, permethrin-treated clothing, and proper body protection such as long-sleeved clothing and closed-toe shoes. Remove ticks promptly by using tweezers and pulling the tick out of the skin gently. To reduce the spread of ticks, it is recommended to keep your yard free of tall grass, leaves, and other debris that tick could thrive in. There are also vaccines available to protect against Lyme disease for people who live in high-risk areas.
Discussing Treatment Options
Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics, but early diagnosis is crucial. If you believe you have become infected with Lyme disease, seek medical attention immediately. Antibiotics can reduce the severity of symptoms and decrease the likelihood of long-term consequences. In addition, activities that can help manage Lyme disease symptoms include engaging in light exercise, getting adequate sleep, and eating a balanced diet.
While Lyme disease can be a serious concern for people spending time outdoors, taking preventative measures can minimize the risks of infection. Avoiding tick habitats, identifying high-risk behaviors, recognizing symptoms, and seeking medical attention promptly are crucial for minimizing the toll of Lyme disease on one’s health. With awareness and the right precautions, you can continue to enjoy the outdoors without worrying about Lyme disease.
For more information and tips on how to prevent and treat Lyme disease, speak with your healthcare provider or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at cdc.gov/lyme.