Cases of Lyme disease are expected to increase 25 percent over last year. Our Infection Prevention specialist shares tips on preventing Lyme disease while still enjoying the great outdoors.
As summer temperatures rise, so should our awareness about Lyme disease.
"Lyme disease is present in every county in Pennsylvania, which had the most reported cases of Lyme disease in the U.S. for the past five years," said Bridget McEnrue, BSN, RN, CIC, director of Infection Prevention & Sterile Processing at Doylestown Health.
Lyme disease is an illness transmitted through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick (also known as a deer tick). Symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches and joint pain. A common early symptom is a red rash that looks like a bulls-eye.
Cases of Lyme disease have spiked significantly in Pennsylvania. Statewide infection rates more than doubled over the last five years, reaching 11,443 in 2016. In 2014, the Department of Health recorded 7,400 cases of Lyme disease in Pennsylvania, compared with 5,900 cases in 2013. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that overall, mosquito, tick and flea bites that have resulted in illness tripled between 2004 and 2016.
How to Prevent Lyme Disease
"With outdoor summer activities, prevention is key," said Bridget. "People of all ages should wear a hat, long pants, socks and shoes while in wooded or grassy areas."
Tips for Protecting Yourself
- Avoid tick-infested areas, particularly during the summer months.
- Use an insect repellent that contains at least 20% concentration of DEET on exposed skin and clothing. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes, and mouth. Always follow product instructions.
- You can use permethrin on camping gear and tents. Permethrin spray is any bug repellent on the market.
- For clothing or other items such as outdoor gear that are not easily washed, use a permethrin 0.5% product by spraying onto surfaces.This will last for several months, or less if gear gets wet.
"Remember to look at all skin areas after outdoor activities and shower within two hours so you can see and remove ticks," said Bridget.
The sooner you remove the tick, the better your chances are of not getting Lyme disease.
Finding and removing ticks:
- Check your body for ticks daily if you have been in a high-risk area.
- Shower or take a bath once you come in from the outside, preferably within two hours. Ticks often crawl or climb to areas of our body using our clothing.
- Be sure to wash and dry your clothing on a high-heat temperature. Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.
- If you find a tick on your body, remove it carefully. It is important to avoid crushing the body. Grasp the tick as close to your body as possible and firmly pullin an upward direction.
- Then, be sure to clean the area with antiseptic. Never use remedies like hot matches, nail polish, or Vaseline to attempt to make the tick pull away from your skin.
- Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
"Seek medical attention for Lyme disease if you experience flu-like symptoms or a target-like or bull's-eye rash develops on your skin during late spring to early fall when ticks are prevalent," suggested Bridget.
About Doylestown Health
Doylestown Health is a comprehensive healthcare system of inpatient, outpatient and wellness education services connected to meet the health needs of all members of the local and regional community. Doylestown Hospital, the flagship to Doylestown Health has 232 beds and a Medical Staff of more than 435 physicians in over 50 specialties. An independent nonprofit health system, Doylestown Health is dedicated to providing innovative, patient-centered care for all ages.