Lyme Disease

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is an illness you can get from black-legged dear ticks. It affects your skin, joints, brain, and heart. It was first identified in Connecticut in the 1970s. In the US it is most common in Northeastern states from Massachusetts to Maryland and in North-central states, particularly Minnesota and Wisconsin.

How do you get it?

Not all tick bites cause illness; most don't. To get Lyme disease you must be bitten by a tick infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme. In the Northeastern US, the only tick known to carry this  bacteria is the “deer tick” or “blacklegged tick”. This tick is very small and can be hard to see. The longer the tick is attached, the more likely it is to give you Lyme disease.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptom is a rash called erythema migrans. It looks like a bull's eye. If you see this sort of rash on your skin, it is important you have a healthcare provider take a look at it. Not everyone gets this rash, however, so it is important to be alert for other symptoms and

Other early symptoms of Lyme disease occur 3 to 30 days after the bite of an infected tick. They might include:
  • Fatigue
  • Chills/fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle/ joint aches
  • Swollen glands
  • Other types of rashes
Sometimes a person can be bitten by a tick, get the sickness, and not know it. Symptoms may not be noticed for weeks or months. Later symptoms can include:
  • Bell’s palsy (unable to move one side of face)
  • Meningitis or encephalitis (inflammation of spinal cord or brain covering)
  • Shooting pains
  • Heart palpitations (racing)
  • Dizziness
  • Joint pain

What is the treatment?

If Lyme Disease is caught early enough, most people recover fully after taking antibiotics prescribed by a doctor.
Learn more about treatment for Lyme Disease. Click here

How can I prevent Lyme disease?


Wear light-colored clothes, so ticks can be seen and removed more easily. Wear long sleeves and pants tucked into your shoes when participating in outside activities.
Keep yards tick-free. Mow grass often and clear away fallen branches and leaves around the edges of your yard. When hiking be sure to stay to the center of the hiking trails.

Repellents: For skin

  • DEET is safe for children and adults when used as directed. To learn more about DEET tick repellents Click here
  • Picardin 0.5% has been used in other parts of the world for a long time and has been available in the US for a few years.
  • To learn more about natural tick repellents: Click here
Repellents: For clothing
  • Permethrin is used only for clothing. It is NOT used on your skin.

Tick check!

When you come inside be sure to check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks. Pay close attention to the head, neck, behind the ears, the back, buttocks and leg areas.
To learn how to check yourself and your children for ticks Click here
To learn hoe to check your pets for ticks Click here

What to do if you find that a tick has bitten you?

  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick. Try not to crush the tick.
  • Grasp it as close to your skin as possible and pull the tick's body away slowly and steadily.
  • Wash your skin with soap and warm water.
  • Watch for fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle, joint pain and swollen joints. 70% of people with Lyme Disease will notice a bullseye rash. This rash may occur 3 to 30 days after the tick bite has occurred. Call your healthcare provider with symptoms or questions. To learn more Click here 
The following methods DO NOT work, can be dangerous and may actually increase your risk of getting infected.
Do NOT use:
  • Petroleum jelly
  • A hot match
  • Nail Polish
  • Dish detergent
  • Alcohol
  • Oils and Essential Oils
Summer in the Finger Lakes means enjoying a variety of outdoor activities. By being aware of ticks and taking a few simple precautions it is possible to decrease your risk of getting Lyme disease this season. Additionally, by checking for rashes and reporting symptoms to your doctor, it is possible to catch Lyme disease in its early stages when it is easiest to treat.

For more information on Lyme see the CDC's website.
For more information on mosquito and tick repellents see:
Click here
NY State Department of Health:
National Pesticide Information Center:

(Updated 4/23/2019)