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Take the Offense Against Lyme Disease

Some tips to avoid the ticks that will feed on you

SATURDAY, May 17, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Don't let ticks suck the fun out of your summer.

While deer ticks do carry bacteria that cause Lyme disease, you can protect yourself and your family by taking appropriate precautions.

Lyme disease can cause a variety of conditions, including heart disorders, meningitis, facial palsy and arthritis. Lyme disease in the United States is mostly limited to northeastern, mid-Atlantic and upper north-central states, as well as several counties in northwestern California.

In 1999, there were 16,273 cases of Lyme disease reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and 92 percent of those cases were in Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts and Wisconsin.

Ticks pass on the bacteria that cause Lyme disease when they attach to your skin and feed on your blood. They have to be attached for a long period of time (more than 36 hours) for a tick to transmit the Lyme disease organism into your bloodstream.

The CDC offers the following advice for people in areas where ticks may carry Lyme disease:

  • Avoid tick habitats. That means staying out of moist, shaded areas, especially those with leaf litter and low-lying vegetation in woody, brushy or overgrown grassy locations.
  • If you have to go into areas with potential tick infestation, wear light-colored clothing. That lets you spot ticks more easily and remove them before they attach to you. Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants and tuck your pants into your socks or boots. High rubber boots may offer added protection because ticks are usually located close to the ground.
  • Use insect repellants that contain DEET and apply them to your clothing and skin.
  • Do tick checks and remove any attached ticks. Remove attached ticks by using fine-tipped tweezers. Grasp the tick firmly and as closely to your skin as possible. With a steady motion, pull the tick's body away from the skin. The tick's mouthparts may remain in the skin, but they don't contain the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Clean the area with an antiseptic. You may wish to consult with your doctor.
  • Eliminate tick habitat around your home. Get rid of leaf litter, brush and wood piles, and clear trees and brush to admit more sunlight.

More information

Here's where you can find out more about Lyme disease.

SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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