Tick season is upon us once again—bringing with it an increased risk of Lyme disease for communities across Long Island. According to the New York State Department of Health, since the disease became reportable, 100,000 cases have been logged. Research shows more than half the ticks found in Suffolk and Nassau counties carry Lyme disease. And news reports indicate more ticks have been reported in Suffolk County than anywhere else in the country.
Here’s a look at Lyme disease and how to prevent it from taking a bite out of your summer fun.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by a bite from an infected tick. Anyone can get Lyme disease. But you are more likely to become infected if you spend a lot of time outdoors in grassy or wooded areas. Although the ticks that cause Lyme disease are present year-round, most bites happen during the summer months when ticks are most active. The infected tick must be attached to your body for at least 36 hours for infection to occur.
Symptoms of Lyme disease usually appear within three to 30 days of exposure. The most common is one or more circular red rashes that resemble a bullseye. Other symptoms include:
- Excessive fatigue
- Heart problems
- Muscle and joint pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Temporary facial paralysis
Treatment typically includes antibiotics and is most successful in the early stages of infection.
Ticks that carry Lyme disease live in moist, shady areas near the ground. They prefer grassy areas in lawns and gardens as well as shrubs and bushes less than 24 inches tall. Ticks cannot fly or jump. They attach to people or animals through direct contact.
Follow these tips from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDH) to prevent Lyme disease:
Check your clothes and any exposed skin often. Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to see any ticks that become attached.
- Don't sit on the ground or stone walls.
- Keep long hair tied back.
- Stay on cleared pathways and trails.
- Tuck your shirt into your pants and your pants into your socks to limit access to skin.
- Use insect repellant when outdoors.
- Wear gloves when gardening.
Safe Tick Removal
Don’t panic if you find a tick on your clothing or body despite all your precautions. If it’s still crawling and not attached, simply remove and discard it. If a tick is attached to your skin, follow these hints from the NYSDH for safe removal:
- Use tweezers and grasp the tick as close to your skin as you can.
- Pull upward in a slow, steady motion to release the tick’s mouth. Do not squeeze or squash the tick.
- Don’t use heat, matches, nail polish, nail polish remover or petroleum jelly, which can increase your chance of infection.
- Once you’ve removed the tick, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.
- Monitor the area for 30 days after removing the tick to make sure there’s no sign of infection.
If you experience the traditional bullseye rash or any other Lyme disease symptoms, contact your physician immediately to determine if antibiotics are needed to prevent further illness.
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