Ticks and Lyme Disease

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection carried by deer ticks. An infected tick can transmit the disease when it bites. Untreated, the disease can cause a number of health problems. Patients treated with antibiotics in the early stage of the infection usually recover rapidly and completely.

Where is Lyme Disease found?
In the United States, infected deer ticks can be found in the northeast, including New York State; in the upper midwest; and along the northwest coast.

What Are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease?
The early symptoms of Lyme disease may be mild and easily missed. If you find a tick attached to your skin, remove the tick with tweezers and watch for the symptoms of Lyme Disease. Usually the first symptom is a rash that appears in 60- 80% of cases and:

  • Occurs at or near the site of the tick bite
  • Is a solid red “bulls-eye” or ring-like rash that grows larger
  • Appears an average of 3 days to 1 month after the tick bite
  • Has a diameter of 2 to 6 inches
  • Lasts for about 3 to 5 weeks
  • May or may not be warm to the touch
  • Is usually not painful or itchy
  • Ticks attach themselves anywhere, but prefer body creases, including the armpits, groin, back of knee and nape of neck.

How is Lyme Disease Treated?

If you think you have Lyme disease, you should see your health care provider immediately. Early diagnosis of Lyme disease should be made on the basis of symptoms and history of possible exposure to ticks. Blood tests may give false negative results if performed in the first month after the tick bite.

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

In a small number of cases, Lyme disease can become a chronic condition. However, some patients have reported slow improvement and even an end to symptoms, months or even years after treatment.

How Can I Protect Against Ticks?

  • Wear enclosed shoes and light colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily.
  • Wear 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.
  • Consider using insect repellent.
  • 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.
  • Do a final, full-body tick check at the end of the day (also check children and pets), and remove ticks promptly.

What About Insect Repellent?

Two active ingredients found in repellents are DEET (the label may say N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) and permethrin. DEET repellents have varying levels of concentration. In general, the higher the concentration the higher the protection. It is advisable to use the lowest concentration that you think will provide the protection you need. The New York State Department of Health recommends taking these precautions when using repellents that contain these active ingredients:

  • Store out of reach of children and read all instructions on the label before applying.
  • Do NOT allow children to apply DEET on themselves.
  • Do NOT apply DEET directly to children. Apply to your own hands and then put on the child.
  • When applying DEET, avoid the child's face and hands.
  • Do not apply repellents on skin damaged by sunburn, cuts, bruises or other conditions such as psoriasis.
  • Avoid prolonged or excessive use of DEET.
  • Do NOT apply repellents in enclosed areas.
  • Do NOT apply directly on your face.
  • Do NOT apply near eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Wash treated skin and clothing after returning indoors.
  • If you believe you or a child is having an adverse reaction to a repellent containing DEET, wash the treated area immediately and contact your local health care provider or local poison control center.

How Can I Remove a Tick?

If you DO find a tick attached to your body, do NOT panic. Not all ticks are infected, and your risk of Lyme Disease is greatly reduced if the tick is removed within the first 36 hours.

To remove a tick:

  • Use a pair of pointed tweezers to grasp the tick by the head or mouthparts right where they enter the skin. Do NOT grasp the tick by the body.
  • Pull firmly and steadily outward. Do NOT twist the tick.
  • Place the tick in a small container of rubbing alcohol or vegetable oil to kill it.
  • Clean the bite wound with disinfectant.
  • Monitor the site of the bite for the next 30 days, for the appearance of a rash.

To identify the type of tick, please contact Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schenectady County at 372-1622.



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