Protect Your Family and Pets from Lyme Disease

March 29, 2011

Deerticks can cause lyme disease.

For the past five years the rate of lyme disease in the northeast has been going up, and early reports suggest that this year will follow that trend.

While some of the increase in lyme disease rates is tied to an increase in awareness about the disease, there has also been a noticeable increase in exposure to lyme disease for northeasterners.

Cuddly woodland creatures can often be a sort of trojan horse for lyme disease. Lyme disease transmission is generally caused by ticks, about half of whom carry lyme disease. Ticks can be found on deer (whose population is soaring right now in parts of the northeast), and rodents like voles and squirrels.

People who live in or near the woods (an increasing trend) are at higher risk for tick bites, and should take extra precaution against catching lyme disease.

Take Precaution To Avoid Tick Bites and Lyme Disease:

Strong fragrances (either from synthetic products like lotions and perfumes, or garlic and similar kitchen items) can deter ticks from biting.Wearing clothes that keep you covered up (pants tucked into boots, hats…) can decrease your risk for tick bites.

Check for ticks after spending time outside. If you find one, send it in to your local testing facility. (Not just woodlands but parks and other grassy areas can have lyme disease carrying ticks). The sooner you find and remove a tick, the smaller your chance of contracting lyme disease.

Enjoy nature from a distance: although cute (and especially tempting to kids) deer and other animals may carry ticks. Avoid feeding deer, which not only involves getting close but inviting them to feel comfortable in human areas.

Teach kids to recognize tick bites. The Lyme Disease Association is hosting an online video and game to help kids learn to recognize and treat bites: Lyme Disease Association – kids.

Know The Signs Of Lyme Disease:

  • On humans, a bullseye rash will appear around the area of the tick bite within a month if lyme disease was transmitted. On pets, it’s harder to tell.
  • The rash won’t burn or itch; always watch tick bites closely.
  • For your four-legged friends, watch for unusual behaviour, like reluctance to put weight on their joints.
  • Other signs of lyme disease include fever and headache (signs of infection).

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, and different people have different levels of success treating lyme disease. Some will suffer from chronic lyme disease, with persistent symptoms of fatigue and muscle soreness. Besides avoiding tick bites, protect yourself by keeping your immune system strong.

Get treatment for lyme disease immediately, if not treated the infection can spread and cause severe symptoms including paralasis, encephalitis (and related psychological problems).

Some local governments use pesticides to kill ticks and reduce lyme disease transmission rates. Unfortunately, the pesticides used are known to carry a potential health risk for humans, especially since multiple applications are needed to be effective at reducing the tick population.

Be active in your local government: find out if and where they are spraying, and suggest that they make the effort to focus the spraying in the most affected areas rather than spraying broadly (Plan A just about everywhere).

What are your experiences with ticks and lyme disease? What precautions does your town take? And good tips for nature lovers who don’t want to get bit?

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