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How to Avoid Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a chronic infection spread by tick bites. It can cause a rash, joint pain, and muscle weakness, or meningitis. Symptoms can present themselves years after you receive a bite. However, when Lyme disease is caught early, it can be easily treated to prevent long-term problems.

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in the United States, and it's important to take steps to avoid a tick bite whenever possible. Before you head outside, whether during the day or at night, a few simple precautions can help reduce your risk of a tick bite.

Wear the right clothes

If you are going to be outdoors, especially in wooded areas or places with tall grass, wear

clothing that covers your skin and reduces your risk of a tick bite. The best clothing for outdoor adventures in tick-infested areas such as the Northeast and Midwest include:

  • Hiking boots

  • Long pants

  • Long-sleeved shirts

  • Tall socks

You might think it’s too hot to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts on a summer day, but there are several fabric options that will help keep your body cool. Remember, keeping your skin covered makes it harder for ticks to attach to your body.

Check for ticks immediately

At the end of every day, check your entire body for ticks. If possible, ask a friend to check your back, neck, hair and scalp for ticks. It will also help to shower right away. Many ticks don’t attach immediately, so taking a shower increases the chance that they may wash away before they even bite you.

After your shower, carefully examine your body again, including your belly button, your armpits and behind your ears, to ensure there aren’t any ticks attached. If you do find a tick, remove it immediately with tweezers. Make sure to get the entire tick.

Don’t forget to check pets, too. If your dog has been on a hike with you, be sure to examine them thoroughly for ticks. Ticks can range from the size of a poppy seed to the size of a pencil eraser. In most cases, a tick has to be on you for more than 36 hours to transfer Lyme disease, so it's important to check for ticks after each day spent outdoors.

Use tick repellent

Insect repellents that are more than 20% DEET are effective at keeping away ticks, though be sure to avoid your eyes and mouth. All members of your family should apply tick repellent before heading outside. You should also treat pets with a monthly flea and tick repellent. These repellents often kill ticks that bite your pets within 24 hours, helping to keep them safe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate there are more than 300,000 Lyme disease infections each year. Taking these careful steps to prevent tick bites can help you avoid becoming part of that statistic.

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How To Avoid Lyme Disease (2)
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