What precautions should you take to avoid Lyme disease?
- Insect repellents containing DEET are safe and can effectively repel ticks. Repellents can be applied to clothing as well as exposed skin but should not be applied to skin underneath clothing (note: DEET may damage some materials). Always read and follow label directions.
- Wear light-coloured clothing to make it easier to see ticks. Check for ticks on clothing and skin. A daily total-body inspection and prompt removal of attached ticks (within 18 to 24 hours) can reduce the risk of infection. Blacklegged ticks are very small, particularly the younger stages, so look carefully. Do not forget to check children and pets as well.
- Carefully remove attached ticks using tweezers. Grasp the tick’s head and mouth parts as close to the skin as possible and pull slowly until the tick is removed. Do not twist or rotate the tick and try not to squash or crush the tick during removal.
- After removing ticks, wash the bite site with soap and water or disinfect it with alcohol or household antiseptic. Note the day of the tick bite and try to save the tick in an empty pill vial or doubled zip-lock bag.
- Contact a doctor immediately if you develop symptoms of Lyme disease. If you have saved the tick, take it with you to the doctor’s office.
- Lyme disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics and treatment is most successful in the early stages of infection.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
The symptoms of Lyme disease usually happen in three stages, although not all patients have every symptom. The first sign of infection is usually a circular rash called erythema migrans or EM. This rash occurs in about 70-80 percent of infected people. It begins at the site of the tick bite after a delay of three days to one month. Other common symptoms include:
- muscle and joint pain
- swollen lymph nodes.
If untreated, the second stage of the disease can last up to several months and include
- central and peripheral nervous system disorders
- multiple skin rashes
- arthritis and arthritic symptoms
- heart palpitations
- extreme fatigue and general weakness
If the disease remains untreated, the third stage can last months to years with symptoms that can include recurring arthritis and neurological problems.
How can I protect my dog?
Prevention – Early removal of ticks by carefully inspecting your dog’s ears, tail area, elbows and between toes. This should be done daily, as it takes the tick about 48 hours to infect your dog. One of the most effective ways to keep ticks off your dog is to apply a tick prevention product specifically designed for dogs and/or a tick collar. Talk to your veterinarian about the best options for your dog.