Lyme Disease Prevention -
Learn how to prevent this worrisome
Learn how to prevent this worrisome disease
approaching, it is a good time to review prevention strategies for
tick-borne diseases. In Massachusetts, Lyme disease is the most
common and best known tick-borne disease. Fortunately, tick-borne
disease can be prevented or detected and treated, if parents are
aware of some basics facts.
How does one get Lyme
Lyme disease is caused by a corkscrew-shaped bacteria
called a spirochete. When an infected deer tick bites a human, the
spirochete is transmitted into the human bloodstream. Deer ticks are
found near wooded areas, tall grass and brush. Ticks crawl very
slowly and can latch on to a person or pet who brushes against them.
They are carried by deer, birds, fields mice, chipmunks, and other
small mammals. It is the nymphal tick, which is about the size of a
poppv seed, that is the cause of most Lyme disease in humans. The
problem is that because it is so small, it frequently goes
undetected on the body. Adult ticks can also spread the disease, but
since they are larger, about the size of an apple seed, they are
easier to detect and are often removed before the spirochete is
transmitted. The tick must remain attached to the skin for at least
24 hours in order to transmit the disease. It should be noted not
all deer tick carry Lyme disease. Larger ticks like wood ticks do
not carry Lyme disease.
The nymph stage of the deer tick is from
May to July, so this is the greatest risk period for humans. Adult
ticks which can also transmit disease are active from fall through
spring. Areas where the deer tick is endemic include Cape Cod,
Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.
What are the symptoms of Lyme
The first symptoms of Lyme disease are a distinctive
rash and flu-like illness, including a headache, stiff muscles, and
sometimes a low-grade fever. About 60 per cent (some sources say as
high as 80 to 90 percent) of people with Lyme disease develop
a"bull's eye rash at the site of the bite a few days after being
infected. This telltale rash usually begins with a red dot on the
skin, encircled by increasingly faint rings. The bull's eye rash
starts out measuring two and a half inches in diameter, but can
increase to a size of six to eight inches across. The Lyme disease
rash does not itch or hurt. A second rash can appear on other parts
of the body 3 to 5 weeks after the tick bite. This rash is also a
red annular rash but is usually smaller than the first bull's
rash. If the disease is not treated during the early phase, later
symptoms include joint pain, arthritis and neurological
Whenever possible, avoid tick
infested areas. When your child plays in wooded or marshy areas
dress him in long-sleeved shirt with long pants tucked into high
socks, and a hat. In hot weather children can be dressed more
lightly, but make sure he wears high socks. Light-colored clothing
is best so that ticks can be more easily spotted. Permethrin can
also be sprayed onto clothes. This is effective in decreasing tick
attachment. If insect repellent is used it should contain at least
30 percent DEET. This should not be applied directly to your child's
skin but sprayed on your child's clothing. Even products with lower
concentrations of DEET should never be applied to a child's hand or
face or to broken skin. These preparations should be washed off when
he comes in for the day. A shower may even help wash off unattached
ticks. This is also a good time to inspect your child's body and
clothing for tick exposure. Special attention should be given to the
exposed hairy region such as the head and neck. Other areas where
ticks may be difficult to notice are behind the ears and knees,
under the arms and in the groin area.
If an attached tick is
spotted, it should be removed promptly. Embedded ticks should be
removed using fine-tipped tweezers applied close to the skin. The
tick should be gently pulled straight out without a twisting motion,
take care not to squeeze the body of the tick. If fingers are used
to remove ticks, they need to be protected with plastic gloves or
facial tissue and washed after removal of the tick. The tick should
be flushed down the toilet or saved in a closed container for later
identification . Do not become alarmed if the tick's mouth parts
remain in the skin, the bacteria that causes Lvme disease is in the
tick's midgut or salivary glands. After removing the tick cleanse
the area with an antiseptic.
hitch rides on your pets, but fall off before biting them present an
additional risk. In fact, dogs are six times more likely to get Lyme
disease than their owners. Cats also play host to ticks, but are
infected less often, perhaps because they regularly groom
themselves. Discuss tick-control products with your veterinarian.
There is a vaccine currently available for dogs. This, of course,
will not prevent them from bringing ticks into you home so, pets
should be checked daily for ticks.
Infected ticks can be carried
into your back-yard, especially if the yard adjoins a wooded area.
Take the following precautions to help keep deer ticks and their
hosts out of your yard:
*Keep your lawn trimmed and mowed and
remove fallen leaves and brush. *Keep wood-piles off the ground, in
a sunny area (or underneath a plastic cover), and as far from the
house as possible.
*Discourage deer from entering your yard by
removing plants that attract them.
Your local nursery can advise
you regarding plants deer don't like.
* Birds and mice (both of
which carry ticks) are attracted by bird feeders.
feeders away from the house and remove bird food that has
to the ground. Better yet, take feeders down during the
Spring and Summer
months when the danger of contracting Lyme
disease is greatest. Vaccine for Lyme disease
A vaccine was
licensed in 1998, but as of February 24, 2002 is no longer
Early diagnosis and treatment
If Lyme disease is contracted,
it can be easily treated in most patients when diagnosed in the
early stages of the disease.
Article written by Nancy DelGiudice,RN-C,PNP