Summer is right around the corner and that means lots of outdoor activities. If you’re planning some camping trips this summer, or just enjoying the longer days by being outside more, there is something you need to prepare for that you might not have considered: ticks! Yes, those nasty little arachnids that love to hang out in central Florida, also love to infect humans with Lyme Disease. Read on to learn how to protect yourself from this infection.
According to the Florida Department of Health, there were 673 cases of Lyme disease reported in Florida from 2002 to 2011, and we average about 67 cases of the disease per year in our state. Most those infections occurred in the north and central areas of Florida.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by bites from infected ticks. You’ll know you have contracted Lyme disease if you notice a red rash that may appear like a bull’s eye, somewhere on your skin. However, not everyone with Lyme disease gets this rash. You might also notice more general symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, stiff neck, and fatigue.
Because of these generic symptoms that are commonly associated with other illnesses such as the flu, Lyme Disease can sometimes be hard to diagnose, especially if you haven’t noticed that you were bitten by a tick. If you have any of these symptoms, and especially if you notice a red rash after being outdoors, see your doctor right away. Antibiotics can help cure most cases of Lyme disease.
Ticks are often so small that they are not easily visible. As a result, the best way to avoid tick bites and Lyme disease is to avoid being bitten. Here’s how to protect yourself this summer:
- Cover up with long shirts and pants; if you’ll be walking in a grassy, wooded areas that may have ticks, use an insecticide meant to repel ticks, and tuck your pants into your socks;
- When walking on trails, stay on the path and avoid leafy or shrubby areas where ticks like to hang out;
- Do a full body check (your skin and your clothes) if you’ve been outside in a tick-prone area (or even after just being outside anywhere) – ticks need to be attached to your skin for more than 36 hours to transmit disease, so you can prevent illness by removing any visible ones;
- Shower thoroughly after being outdoors, especially if you have been in a grassy or wooded area;
- Make sure you check hard-to-see areas including between your toes, between your legs, in and around your ears, in your belly button, and on your head;
- If you do see a tick, remove it with pointy tweezers; grab the tick by its mouth parts (they will be close to your skin!)
With a few easy precautionary measures, you can stay tick- and Lyme disease-free this summer and enjoy the great outdoors.