Summer is full of relaxation and fun under the sun. While it is great to spend time outdoors, there are some serious risks. One of the biggest threats to our health, especially in the summer, is Lyme disease which is caused by tick bites.
Cases of Lyme disease are skyrocketing. According to the EPA, the number of reported cases of Lyme disease have approximately doubled since the 1990s. This is very serious. A report by the CDC states that there are roughly 300,000 cases of Lyme disease in the U.S. each year. They also are confident that the actual number of cases is higher, as many people are not aware that they are infected.
Symptoms of Lyme disease vary and depend on the individual patient. They range from a rash and flu-like symptoms all the way to joint pain and neurological problems.
What steps must you take to avoid getting Lyme disease?
1) Cover up
If you know you’re going outside, especially if you’re going on a hike or going through a heavily wooded area, covering your skin is absolutely essential. I understand that it’s summer and hot out, so you probably want to wear as little as possible, but then you’re asking for trouble. I always suggest that people wear closed-toe shoes, tall socks, and their lightest weight pair of sweatpants. By making sure that you are covered all over your body, there is no skin available for the tick to bite and infect you.
2) Use bug spray
Wearing long pants and long sleeves is a fantastic start, but that isn’t all! Make sure to use bug spray. Not only will this be helpful if you are in a buggy area, but also it will repel ticks. Furthermore, you can use stronger bug spray because you will be spraying it on to your clothing, not straight on to your skin. I recommend especially spraying areas like your ankles that can more easily get exposed to ticks.
3) Check for ticks
As soon as you back inside take the time to check for ticks. While it’s very tempting to just rush and jump in the shower and toss your clothes into the hamper, that is a mistake. You’re so close to being in the clear, but there’s always a chance that somehow a tick managed to get past the long pants and bug spray. Additionally, if you have a pet that runs around outside, like a dog, make sure to check them as well. If there is a tick on your dog, and the dog comes back inside the house, the tick can easily move around and bite you.
4) Call your doctor!
If you see anything that looks like it could be a tick or tick bite call your doctor immediately. The doctor will be able to determine what the mark is and what the next best step is. What’s the worst that could happen? If it isn’t a tick or tick bite, then you have the peace of mind and know you’re fine, and the doctor did their job. If it is a tick bite, then the doctor will be able to remove the tick and clean the site where the infection would occur.
If you want to learn more, I recently spoke on Good Morning Washington D.C. and you can watch that segment here.