Lyme disease is the most common illness spread by ticks, and is most usually transmitted by the deer tick while in its tiny nymph stage. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is carried by the American dog tick and is potentially deadly. Two lesser know tick borne illnesses are ehrlichiosis and babesiosis, which have flue-like symptoms and can make susceptible people very ill. The best protection against these diseases is to prevent tick bites and recognizing symptoms early so that proper treatment can be given. Consumer Reports recommended these steps to take:
- Protect your yard: Keep the most used areas of your yard as clear and dry as possible (ticks hate that). Rake leaves from around shrubs, walls, and fences. Clear overgrown brush, and keep the lawn mown. If you live next to woodland, create a wood-chip or gravel barrier at least 3 feet wide to separate the grass from the woods. A single application of a pyrethroid pesticide around the edge of the barrier in mid-May, and again in the fall, can reduce tick numbers.
- Protect your body: Ticks usually don’t come to you… you go to them. Avoid brushy areas if possible during prime tick season. Wear long pants, preferably light-colored ones so you can see any ticks that climb onto them. Tuck your pants into your socks. Several deet-based insect repellents work against ticks as well as mosquitoes. You can also spray your clothing (not your skin) with an insecticide containing 0.5 percent permethrin. After a day outdoors, check your body for ticks, especially your groin, ears, neck, and head. Be sure and check children closely. If you find a tick, grasp it firmly with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and slowly pull it off. Should a piece of the tick remain under the skin, it will be unable to infect you with Lyme disease. Use a topical antiseptic to prevent skin infection.
- Recognize symptoms: Lyme disease can start off with a bull’s-eye rash, but not always. Other symptoms include a flu-like illness, sudden arthritis in large joints, sudden nerve pain in the hip area, facial palsy, or abnormal heart rhythm. If you have any of these symptoms during tick season, go to the Doctor. Treatment is usually with antibiotics. Rocky Mountain spotted fever typically starts with a fever, nausea, vomiting, and severe headache, followed by a pink, spotted rash on the wrists, forearms, and ankles. Prompt treatment with antibiotics is essential to avoid serious complications or even death.