Weather is getting warmer. Are you ready to enjoy the great outdoors?
Keep in mind that warmer temperatures also mean it’s tick season, which translates to an increased risk of Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections.
Pennsylvania is the worst state in the nation when it comes to tick-borne illnesses, with more than 10,000 Lyme disease cases reported according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced earlier this year that it’s conducting a five-year environmental surveillance of ticks to assess the risk of tick-borne illnesses across the state.
The survey is part of the Pennsylvania Lyme Disease Task Force recommendations for combatting the growing incidence of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.
Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick and, if left untreated, can cause life-threatening complications.
Some of the symptoms of having Lyme disease include, fever, headache, muscle aches, joint pain and a skin rash. Symptoms can be treated with antibiotics.
The Department of Health says people should be prepared when they are outdoors this summer, and avoid grassy or wooded areas where ticks may live.
“Lyme disease is a major public health concern in Pennsylvania,” state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said in a news release. “Many people believe that Lyme disease, and the ticks that carry the disease, can only be found in wooded areas. However, I know personally, as do many others, that ticks can be found in your backyard, where you walk your dog, or the local park. These surveillance efforts will help us to share with all Pennsylvanians the importance of taking steps to protect yourself.”
Adult ticks, which are approximately the size of sesame seeds, can bite at any time but are most active from April to September.
If you experience any signs of headache, fever, fatigue, body aches or spot a bullseye rash, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Here are some simple steps to protect yourself against tick bites:
Choose light colored clothing that makes it easier to spot ticks and other insects.
Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and closed-toe shoes when outdoors, especially in wooded areas or tall grasses.
Be sure to check your skin, clothing, hair and pets before going inside and shower within 2 hours of being indoors.
Showering will also help any unattached ticks to be washed off.
Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors.
Keep the lawn mowed and trim surrounding trees.
Remove weeds, woodpiles and debris, which can attract ticks and other pests away from the house.
Move swing sets and lawn furniture away from wooded and shady areas.
Wear a bug spray containing at least 20 to 30 percent DEET when you venture outdoors, and reapply it as directed on the label.
If you do find a tick on your skin, the key is to remove it as soon as possible.
Use fine-tipped tweezers to remove it. Sterilize the tip of the tweezers using rubbing alcohol and grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Avoid twisting, squeezing or crushing the tick, as this can cause its head or mouth to break off and remain in your skin. If you cannot remove the rest of the tick, see a doctor.
Dispose of the tick. Place it in a sealed bag or container; submerse the tick in alcohol; or wrap it tightly in tape. You may also want to save the tick in a sealed jar. That way, if you develop any symptoms after the bite, the tick can be tested for disease.
Clean the bite area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.