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Understanding Lyme Disease -- Prevention

How Can I Prevent Lyme Disease?

Tips for preventing Lyme disease include the following:

  • Because infection does not occur until a tick has been attached for at least 24 hours, a thorough daily tick check can be an effective first-line defense.
  • Be aware that the ticks are very small, although they are larger when engorged with blood.
  • If you spend time outdoors in areas inhabited by deer ticks, wear shoes, long pants tucked into socks or pant legs, and long sleeves.
  • Use insect repellent with 20%-30% DEET around your ankles, other areas of exposed skin, and clothes. Follow directions carefully.
  • If you work or walk in brushy areas or woods, check regularly for ticks; they are easier to see against light clothing. Check especially around the armpits, groin, scalp, belt line, neck and head. Check pets often, as well.
  • If possible, avoid tick-infested areas, particularly in May, June, and July.
  • If you're in tick-infested areas, walk in the center of trails to avoid overgrown grass and leaf litter.
  • If you do find a deer tick on your skin, remove it immediately.

 

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How to Remove a Deer Tick Safely

  • With tweezers, grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible, pulling gently and steadily.
  • Be patient trying to remove the tick. Ticks secrete a special substance that "cements" them to your skin.
  • Save the tick for identification, if possible. Wash the bite with soap and water.
  • If the tick's mouth parts remain embedded in your skin, make sure to remove them.
  • Don't attempt to burn a tick with a lit match or use other products (like petroleum jelly) on the tick.

Should I Take Antibiotics?

If you have been bitten by a tick, call your health care provider. Antibiotics may be given to prevent Lyme disease. However, antibiotics are usually only given when the tick has been identified as a deer tick, has been attached for at least 36 hours and you have been in a region where there is a high risk of contracting Lyme disease.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 22, 2015

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