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Prevention methods improve tick detection, removal
During summer, outdoor activities such as camping and hiking are popular, increasing the possibilities of tick bites as people go out into the woods. Therefore, as the weather warms and people seek sun and fresh air, they need to learn the dangers of contracting Lyme disease, the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted by infested ticks. They also need to know how they can protect themselves.
"The most important thing I recommend is a tick check. Parents teach their children how to brush their teeth; they should also teach them how to do a tick check. It doesn’t take any longer than brushing their teeth," says Carol Stolow, director of The Lyme Disease Network of New Jersey. She also recommends nighttime bathing, because ticks try to go to the top of people’s heads before feeding. People are more likely to wash them off before they attach if they shower at night rather than waiting until morning.
To help prevent Lyme disease, Stolow frequently lectures at schools. She tells kids that ticks often feel like a scab; if they find something on their body that feels like a scab, they should have an adult check it with a magnifying glass.
According to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is unlikely for the bacterium that causes Lyme disease to be transmitted before 36 hours of
tick attachment. Daily tick checks and their prompt removal is the best method for
What do parents need to know about preventing Lyme disease? Following are a few suggestions from Stolow and the CDC:
• Tick habits. Adults and children alike should know something about the habits of ticks and where they are most likely to be found. Ticks like a moist, shaded environment and can often be found in leaf litter and low-lying vegetation. Habitat that is wooded, brushy, or overgrown with grass will attract ticks. "The tick lives on the underside of a leaf or a bush," says Stolow.
While nymphal ticks feed during the spring and summer months, people should be aware that they can contract Lyme disease from a tick bite any time of year. In the fall, a pile of racked leaves could be infested with ticks, and one could attach to children when they run and jump into the leaves.
To find out about ticks’ habitat in a particular area, people should contact their state and local health departments, park personnel, and agricultural extension services.
• Protection methods. If people are aware that an area is infested with ticks, they should wear light-colored clothing so that ticks can be spotted more easily, according to the CDC. Pants can be tucked into socks or boot tops to keep ticks from reaching a person’s skin. Wearing long-sleeved shirts might help, as well. Because ticks are often in leaf litter or vegetation close to the ground, high, rubber boots can offer some protection.
However, wearing protective clothing is no guarantee against a tick bite. Ticks are so small they can work their way through the weave of a sock, says Stolow. Also, it isn’t practical to recommend long pants tucked into socks in the middle of July.
Make tick checks a habit
• How to check for ticks. The best way to keep from getting Lyme disease is to do a tick check so ticks can be discovered and removed before they have a chance to transmit the bacterium. First, check all the bending parts of the body, such as the back of knees, front of the elbows, the fingers, and the toes, Stolow instructs. "The goal of the tick is to reach the top of your head, but if you bend your leg just when it gets to that area, it will stop and feed there."
Next, check the areas where clothing pressed more tightly against the skin, such as the waist or the shoulders if a bra was worn. The third step is to check the areas of the body where a tick might hide, such as the navel, inside the ear, behind the ear, and along the hairline. Finally, gently run the fingers through the scalp and over all exposed skin. The tick check should always be done with the fingertips, because ticks that are too small for the eye to see can be felt. They will feel like a scab.
• How to remove a tick.
Every household should have a pair of fine-tipped tweezers for removing ticks. In that way, when a tick is found on someone, it can be removed by sliding the tweezers under its body and grabbing the mouth part that is attached to the skin. Once the tick is secure, the tweezers should be lifted straight up without twisting. "I tell people it is no more serious then a splinter at that point. Remove the body without squeezing it because the bacteria lives in the gut of the tick," advises Stolow.
If a person does contract Lyme disease, he or she should see their physician immediately for treatment. Some of the signs and symptoms of the disease are a fever, headache, stiff neck, muscle aches, joint pain, and fatigue. Some get a red, "bulls-eye" type rash. Remember that ticks can feed and drop off, so a person would never know they had been bitten, says Stolow.
For more information about the prevention of Lyme disease, contact:
• Carol Stolow, Director, Lyme Disease Network of New Jersey, 43 Winton Road, East Brunswick, NJ 08816. Web: www.lymenet.org.