Quick facts about ticks and Lyme disease
- Lyme is the most common disease spread by a tick bite. The bacteria are transmitted by deer ticks. Lyme disease is not carried by the more common wood tick, which is bigger.
- In the New England states, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, up to 50% of deer ticks are infected with Lyme disease. But, even in these high-risk areas, only 1% of children bitten by a deer tick get Lyme disease.
- The longer a tick is attached to a person, the greater chance of being infected by the tick. For Lyme disease to be transmitted, the tick needs to be attached for at least 24 hours. You are more likely to get the infection if the tick remains attached for more than 48 hours.
- A unique rash develops in 80% of infected people. The rash (called erythema migrans or ECM) looks like a large red ring or bull’s eye that starts where the person was bitten and expands in size. It typically takes 5 to 10 days to appear. The ECM rash is brief, and may disappear within 2-3 days. The rash is neither painful nor itchy. Some children develop a flu like illness including fever, chills, sore throat, and headache that lasts for several days.
- About 60% of people who have not gotten early treatment for the disease will have late stage symptoms. The most common symptom is recurrent attacks of painful, swollen joints (arthritis). It usually affects the knees.
- Lyme disease is usually cured by 14 days or oral antibiotics if it is diagnosed during stage I. If it is not diagnosed until stage II or III, a month of antibiotics may be necessary.
What can I do to prevent tick bites?
- Use repellent: Apply it to clothes, shoes, and socks before your child gets dressed. You may also apply it to other outdoor items, such as mosquito screens and sleeping bags.
- Children and adults who are hiking, picnicking, or playing in tick infested areas should wear long sleeved shirts, long pants, and tuck the ends of their pants into their socks.
- Immediately after being outside, or at least once per day, check the bare skin. Ticks like hair and dark places, so carefully check the scalp, neck, armpits, and groin. A brisk shower will remove any tick that is not firmly attached.
How do I remove a tick?
- The simplest and quickest way to remove a tick is to pull it off. Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible (try to get a grip on its head). Pull gently and steadily upward until the tick releases its grip. Do not twist the tick or jerk it suddenly. Such maneuvers can break off the tick’s head or mouth parts. Do not squeeze the tweezers to the point of crushing the tick because the secretions released may spread the disease.
- Dispose of the tick by returning it to nature and flushing it down the toilet. It is not necessary to save the tick for identification or testing.
- Do not use petroleum jelly, fingernail polish, hot matches, or rubbing alcohol to try to remove ticks.