Questions & Answers About Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection you get from the bite of an infected DEER tick.
From left to right: The deer tick (Ixodesscapularis) adult female,
adult male, nymph, larva on a centimeter scale
Adult Female Ticks from left to right: Ixodes (Deer Tick) and Dermacentor (Dog Tick)
Ticks shown approximately three times actual size.
Lyme disease may cause symptoms affecting the skin, nervous system, heart and/or joints of an individual.
NOT all deer ticks are infected with the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Ticks can become infected if they feed on small animals that are infected. The disease can be spread when an infected tick bites a person and stays attached for a period of time.
Most cases of Lyme disease occur during the late spring, early summer months when the nymphal stage deer tick is active. This tick is the size of a sesame or poppy seed.
Ticks are everywhere there is grass, especially around your home. They live close to the ground and crawl up on grass or bushes and hang, waiting for a ride to a blood meal. They are usually found at the edges of woods and lawns, on shrubs and bushes, in leaf litter, near stone walls and woodpiles.
The main thing you can do, to protect yourself, is a daily tick check, especially on children. Ticks need to be attached longer than 24 to 36 hours to pass on the disease, if they are infected. Tick checks should be done frequently while in a tick infested areas and again after leaving. The best time to check is after a bath or shower, feeling the skin for a tiny, scab like bump. A full body check is recommended including, the scalp, around the hairline and ears, neck, chest, armpits, waistband area, groin, behind the knee and between toes. Also check pets thoroughly when they come in from outdoors. Pets may have ticks feeding, which can fall off outdoors and lay eggs. They may also have ticks crawling on their fur which can then attach to our skin.
Also, when going outdoors wear protective clothing. Wear shoes and socks; tick live close to the ground. Wear light colors to see ticks if they are crawling. Wear long pants and long sleeved shirts, if it’s not too hot, and tuck pants into socks and shirt into pants. Wear a hat to protect the hair and if you have long hair, tie it up and put it under the hat.
Wear repellents containing deet when outdoors. Follow the directions carefully. Do not spray aerosols indoors. Apply only to exposed skin and wash off when returning indoors. Try not to apply repellents to face and hands. Sweat can cause the repellents to run into eyes, or mouth and hands or fingers can find their way into the mouth.
When walking in wooded or grassy areas, stay in the middle of the pathway. Avoid high-risk areas such as the edges of wood and tall grass fields. Moist, shaded areas may also be risk areas.
Keep the area around your property clear. Remove leaf litter and brush as far away from your house as possible. Prune low lying bushes to let in more sunlight, and rake up any leaves in areas where you or children spend time. This should be done every fall because ticks prefer to live during the winter under leaf-litter.
The first thing to remember is don’t panic. If you’ve been doing tick checks every day you have a good idea how long the tick has been attached. The tick needs to be removed. Prompt and proper removal will help reduce the risk of infection.
- Use fine pointed tweezers or forceps
- Grasp the tick’s mouthparts close to the skin and steadily pull upward and outward
- Do not panic if the mouthpart breaks off. The mouthparts alone cannot transmit Lyme disease because the infective body of the tick is no longer attached. However, to prevent secondary infection, remove the mouthparts as you would a splinter.
- Do not squeeze the body of the tick. This may force infection into the site.
- Do not apply substances such as Vaseline, nailpolish remover, repellents, soaps or heat to the tick while it is still attached. These materials might agitate the tick and cause it to regurgitate infective fluid into the site.
- After removal wash your hands and apply antiseptic to the site.
- The area around the bite site may become immediately red. This is NOT the bull’s eye rash, this is an allergic reaction to the bite, which is normal, and should go away in a couple of days.
If you’re not sure what kind of tick you have, the Orange County Department of Health has a free tick identification service available. Also, in cooperation with the New York State Department of Health, ticks brought to the Orange County Health Department will be sent out for identification, which takes a few days. Information in writing, as to what kind of tick it is, approximately how long the tick was attached and if any parts of the tick are missing, will be included in the information sent directly to your home. Neither the Orange County Department of Health nor the New York State Department of Health test ticks for the disease.
After you have all this information, you and your provider determine what action, if any, is needed.
Early symptoms usually appear within three to thirty days after the bite of an infected tick.
Early Stage Symptoms include; fatigue, rash, low-grade fever, stiff neck, headaches, muscle and/or joint pain, and swollen glands. A first sign of infection is often a red ring-like or expanding red rash, about two to three inches in diameter, expanding around or near the site of the bite. This appears anywhere from 3 to 30 days after being bitten by an infected tick. Sometimes, multiple rash sites appear.
Later Stage Symptoms, which can occur weeks, months or years after a tick bite, include Nervous system problems such as severe headaches, paralysis of facial muscles, loss of memory and trouble concentrating. Other complications include; arthritis (usually pain and swelling in a large joint e.g. Knee) and heart problems such as irregular heartbeat, and palpitations.
REMEMBER; not all deer ticks carry Lyme disease, and if they do they need to be attached longer than 24 to 36 hours to pass on infection. TICK CHECKS are the most important thing you can do to help reduce the threat of Lyme disease.
For more information about Ticks and Lyme Disease, contact Mary Wickes at 568-5256 or visit the following websites:
West Nile Virus Education