Summer means many of us are getting out of the city and into the sunshine. I have a home in Michigan that I love to visit with my dog, my ‘baby’ Monster. I have been horrified to hear more and more about Lyme disease from my dog’s veterinarian and from pet-loving friends living in Michigan and Wisconsin. Infection rates are on the rise in the Midwest and across the country.
Lyme disease is terrible for both animals and people. I hate the thought of my (very large) baby Monster becoming infected, and I want all my friends and readers to know enough about this disease to prevent it. Take ticks seriously, and protect yourself and those you love from Lyme disease this summer.
Lyme disease is carried by blacklegged ticks, which tend to be common in the areas surrounding Chicago: Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana counties near here are known risk areas. Ticks can be anywhere, but they like to gather in areas where they are likely to encounter people and animals.
Dress strategically if you know you’ll be around ticks. Cover up with a hat, a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Skip the sandals and choose boots or shoes, as ticks like to stay near the ground. Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to see any hitchhikers, and brush ticks away before they attach to the skin. Be especially vigilant in late spring and throughout the summer.
People can wear an insect repellant containing DEET or Permethrin. Talk to a veterinarian about treatments for pets. There are many options, including powders, spot treatments, shampoos, collars and oral medications.
After time outdoors, check yourself – as well as kids and pets – for any ticks that may have found a way to attach. Remove ticks as soon as possible using fine-tipped tweezers and grasping as close as possible to the skin. Use firm pressure to pull straight up, then carefully wash the wound. It takes about 48 hours for Lyme disease bacteria to be transmitted, so finding ticks fast is important. Look closely – younger, smaller ticks are most likely to feed on small mammals carrying Lyme disease, and these can be harder to find than adult ticks. If you remove a blacklegged tick that you fear may be a Lyme disease carrier, consider saving the bug and to submit for testing.
The first sign of Lyme disease is usually a ‘bull’s eye’ rash around the bite within a month of tick contact. The rash may spread over time painlessly and without any itch. This may be accompanied by fatigue, headaches, fever, nausea or aches. Leaving the disease untreated could lead to heart block, nervous system problems like meningitis, encephalitis or painful joints and muscles. Most can be treated effectively with antibiotics, especially in the early stages of the disease.
Enjoy the beautiful weather and stay safe!