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    Preventing tick bites and Lyme disease

    Photo illustration of a tick - Lyme Disease

    Photo By Robert K Lanier | This is a photo illustration of a Blacklegged Tick, a Lone Star Tick, and a Dog Tick -...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    Keller Army Community Hospital

    WEST POINT, N.Y. - Rates of tick bites and Lyme disease are high in the Northeast. New York State ranks third in confirmed cases of Lyme disease, only behind Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

    Lt. Col. Gordon Prairie, Keller Army Community Hospital's chief of the Primary Care Department, wants to remind people of the dangers of tick bites and how to prevent them from happening.

    As the weather gets warmer, most of us can’t wait to get out of the house and spend time outdoors. However, before you get started with those activities, we’d like you to consider a few important tips that may avoid the dangers of the tick-borne illness known as Lyme disease.

    Lyme disease makes hundreds of thousands of people sick each year. It is the most commonly reported tick-borne illness in the U.S. Children are especially hard-hit by the disease with the highest incidence among children between ages 5 to 14. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bite of an infected deer tick. Deer ticks are endemic in this region and the rates of Lyme disease in New York are amongst the highest in the country. Untreated, Lyme disease can cause a number of health problems but patients treated with antibiotics in the early stage of the infection usually recover rapidly and completely.

    Deer ticks live in shady, moist areas at ground level and are most common in woods or overgrown places where the ground is covered with leaf litter, thick weeds, or high grass. They cling to tall grass, brush and shrubs, usually no more than 18-24 inches off the ground. Deer ticks cannot jump or fly, and do not drop from trees onto passing people. Ticks attach to humans only by direct contact. Once a tick gets on the skin, it generally climbs upward until it reaches a protected area.

    Ticks will attach themselves nearly anywhere, including: the scalp, thighs, groin, trunk, armpits, behind the ears, and anywhere there are tight fitting clothes such as brassiere lines and waistbands. If a tick bite results in an infection of Lyme disease, a circular rash or solid red patch may appear at the site of the bite. This rash is commonly referred to as a “Bulls-Eye” rash and is a common sign of a recent bite from ticks with the Lyme bacteria.

    Around the time the rash appears, other symptoms, such as joint pain, chills, fever and fatigue can occur, but they may seem too mild to require medical attention. As Lyme disease progresses, severe fatigue, a stiff neck, tingling or numbness in the arms and legs, or facial paralysis can occur. 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, and heart and central nervous system problems.

    Decisions as to the treatment for Lyme disease are based on clinical judgment and, if needed, blood testing. With this in mind, Keller no longer sends ticks off for testing.

    If you find a tick attached to your skin, immediately remove the tick with tweezers and watch carefully for signs and symptoms of Lyme disease. Since you cannot tell if a tick is infected or not by looking at it, the sooner you remove attached ticks, the safer you will be. Studies have shown that prompt removal of ticks within the first 24-36 hours after attachment will often prevent transmission of the bacteria causing Lyme disease. In addition, ticks that are just crawling on your skin or clothing cannot make you sick. If you think you have Lyme disease or have a tick that has been attached to you for an unknown period of time (especially if you believe it has been there longer than 36 hours), you should see your health care provider immediately.

    Early diagnosis of Lyme disease can be made on the basis of symptoms and history. Early treatment almost always results in a full cure and it involves taking oral antibiotics for a short period of time.

    Generally, your medical provider at Keller will treat tick bites as follows: If the tick was on your skin for 36 hours or less and is not engorged, there is a low suspicion for transmission of Lyme and ‘watchful waiting’ and follow up if concerns or symptoms develop is encouraged. If the tick was on your skin for 36-72 hrs and/or it is engorged; you will likely be prescribed a single dose of an antibiotic to prevent a possible infection. If the tick was on your skin for over 72hrs and/or you have a rash or symptoms; then you will be prescribed an antibiotic to take for a full course of treatment (usually two weeks).

    Insect repellents can be effective at reducing bites and can reduce the risk of Lyme disease and other tick-brone diseases. Repellents commonly available to consumers contain the active ingredients DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), picaridin, or botanical oils. Special caution should be used when applying these products to children. Specifically, children should not be allowed to apply repellents to themselves and application on the hands of children should be avoided. Regardless of which repellent product you use, carefully read and follow all directions on the label before each use.

    These additional tips are a helpful in avoiding tick bites:

    • If you find a tick attached to you, remove it by using fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk as this can cause the mouth-parts to break off. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily, leave it alone and let the skin heal. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with soap and water. Apply an antiseptic.

    • While performing activities outside, wear enclosed shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck your shirt in, and tuck your pants into your socks or boots (if wearing). Also wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to make spotting ticks easier.

    • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter, walk in the center of trails.

    • Consider using insect repellent, especially if spending prolonged periods outdoors. Use repellants meant for the skin, such as DEET, as well as permethrin for clothing and gear. For additional information on insect repellants and preventing tick bites go to

    • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.

    • Check clothes, gear and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors and do a final, full-body tick check at the end of the day and remove any ticks promptly. Use a hand held mirror for hard to see areas on your body. Check your children too.

    • Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.

    • Check your pets as they can bring ticks in from outside. Designate specific sleeping area for pets and check their bedding regularly for any ticks that may have fallen off. Keep your pets off the furniture.

    • Remove high grass, weeds, leaf litter, and undergrowth from around your home and keep your lawn well mowed.

    • Keep your children’s play areas located away from woods or overgrown sites.

    • Institute measures to keep wild animals at a distance from your home; place birdfeeders/birdbaths at the edge of your property, keep garbage cans tightly closed, reduce the plants in your yard that deer like to eat (e.g. azaleas, rhododendrons, crabapple, etc).

    For additional information about Lyme Disease Prevention, please contact Keller Army Community Hospital's Dept. of Preventive Medicine and Wellness at (845) 938-2676 or -5834.



    Date Taken: 06.18.2015
    Date Posted: 06.18.2015 14:43
    Story ID: 167151
    Location: WEST POINT, NY, US 

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