Tick season on Long Island is no longer limited to summer days. Warmer, milder winters mean ticks are more active, putting Long Islanders at an increased risk for Lyme disease and other tick-related illnesses.
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 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
What is the treatment for Lyme disease?
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. Treatment is most successful in the early stages of infection.
Can Lyme disease be prevented?
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.
- Do not 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.
How do I safely remove a tick?
Despite all your precautions, do not panic if you find a tick on your clothing or body. If it is still crawling and not attached, remove and discard it. If a tick is attached to your skin, follow these tips from the NYSDH for safe removal:
- Use tweezers and grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible.
- Pull upward slowly, steadily to release the tick’s mouth. Do not squeeze or squash the tick.
- Do not use heat, matches, nail polish, nail polish remover or petroleum jelly, which can increase your chance of infection.
- Once you have 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 ensure no sign of infection.
Contact your doctor immediately if you see any sign of an infection after removing a tick.
Call 866-MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362) to find a Catholic Health physician near you.