Reduce your risk of Lyme disease with simple steps

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Summertime is a great time for enjoying the beautiful outdoors in Michigan. However, outdoor activities may increase your exposure to ticks that cause Lyme disease, especially in areas of the state that have a higher tick population.

The best advice is to not avoid outdoor activities, but rather learn how to reduce your risk for exposure to the black legged tick, formerly known as the deer tick. The black legged tick has been found in much of the western Lower Peninsula of Michigan and in the western Upper Peninsula. It’s normally found in wooded and grassy areas, sandy soils and on a variety of small mammals and deer. The black legged tick has been identified to transmit Lyme disease, and several other tickborne diseases, to humans.

Lyme disease is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected tick. The tick must be attached to its host for 24 to 48 hours for the bacteria (borrelia burgdorferi) to be transmitted. Symptoms of early Lyme disease include chills, fever, headaches, muscle and joint pain. A characteristic skin rash may be present in about 75 percent of cases. Lyme disease and other tickborne diseases are treated by antibiotics.

The most important factors in preventing Lyme disease includes:

  • Knowing where ticks can be encountered
  • Preventing tick bites
  • Removing ticks promptly if they do bite
  • Seeking prompt medical care if illness occurs following a tick bite

Specific prevention tips include:

  • Avoiding areas with lots of ticks — try to stay on well-groomed trails and avoid areas with overgrown grass and brush
  • Keep ticks off your skin — wear light-colored clothing so ticks are easily seen
  • Wear closed-toe shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt
  • Check clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks
  • Check clothes for ticks before going indoors
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency approved repellents registered for ticks that include products containing DEET, picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus

Don’t forget your pets too. Animals may become sick with the same tickborne diseases that affect people. Tickborne disease prevention includes early identification of attached ticks. Make sure to run your hands over your animal’s body checking for lumps, carefully checking around the ears, chest, belly, legs, feet and tail. Tick prevention products and a Lyme disease vaccination are available for pets. Check with your veterinarian to see which tick prevention options are the best for your pets.