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 last 10-15 years it has become prevalent in New York.
How do you get it?
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 ringed rash called erythema migrans. Most people refer to it as a bulls eye or target rash. 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 be alert for other symptoms which could include:
If Lyme disease isn't treated quickly, other symptoms can develop. These include:
What's the treatment?
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.
- Check for ticks and shower when you come indoors.
- Use Insect repellent per manufacturer's instructions. There are many on the market. More information from the EPA.
Found a tick attached to me!
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Try not to crush it.
- Pull slowly and steadily until the tick comes out.
- 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.
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 mosquito and tick repellents see: