Preventing Lyme Disease
Like all serious illnesses, the best way to deal with Lyme disease is to prevent it. The following guidelines, provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, can help you do so. Be sure to especially follow them between the months of May through September, which is when most cases of Lyme infection occur.
- Avoid tick-infested areas.
- When outdoors, wear light-colored clothing so ticks are clearly visible. Smooth materials such as windbreakers are harder for ticks to latch onto, and are therefore preferable to clothing such as knits.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, and a hat, and closed shoes and socks. Be sure to tuck pant legs into socks or boots, and tuck shirts into pants.
- Apply insect repellent to pants, socks, shoes, and exposed skin.
- Walk in the center of nature trails to avoid overgrown grass and brush.
- After being outdoors in tick-infested areas, remove, wash, and dry clothing.
- Inspect your body thoroughly and carefully remove any attached ticks. Also check pets for ticks.
- If you find a tick, tug gently but firmly with blunt tweezers near the head of the tick until it releases its hold on the skin. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull straight out. To reduce the risk of infection, try not to crush the tick’s body or to handle the tick with bare fingers. Don’t attempt to dislodge ticks using heat or chemicals, as this can cause them to inject more pathogens into your skin.
- Swab the bite area thoroughly with an antiseptic to prevent bacterial infection.
Additional Prevention Tips: To protect yourself from tick bites, also take the following measures:
- Remove woodpiles, rock walls, and bird feeders, since these attract tick-carrying small animals and can therefore increase the risk of Lyme infection.
- Property should be treated with Damminix, which consists of cardboard tubes containing cotton balls that have been dipped in insecticide. Lace tubes around wooded areas and below shrubs. “Mice, which are a key link in the propagation of Lyme disease, find the cotton and bring it back to their burrows to be used as nesting material, with the result being a big decrease in the number of ticks in the area,” Dr. Burrascano explains.
- After two years, the tick population may once again increase as other small animals that do not gather cotton become tick hosts. Therefore, using Damminix alone is not enough. You should also use liquid or granular insecticides, such as Tempo, permethrin, and sevin. If liquid insecticides are used, apply by fogging (not by coarse spraying) in a strip a few feet wide at the perimeter of the lawn at any areas adjacent to woods and underbrush. Also treat any ornamental shrubs near the house that may serve as a habitat for small animals. The best time to apply these products is in late spring and early fall.
- Tick repellents that contain permethrin, such as Permanone and Permakill, can also be sprayed directly onto clothing before you wear them (let dry fully before you put them on). Avoid having such products come in contact with your skin, however.
- Upon returning home from outdoor activities, place your clothes in a dryer for ten minutes. This will kill any ticks that may be hidden in your clothes.