It’s summer, and it’s a great time to be out having fun and exploring, especially for kids. It’s also tick season and for those of us who live in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, that means watching out for these disease-baring parasites.
According to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware had more than 10,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in 2009 — 35 percent of the nationwide total.
Lyme disease gets its named from Lyme, Conn., where the first U.S. case was identified in 1975. It is an infection caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, a bacterium that is most commonly transmitted by a tick bite.
The condition can be difficult to identify because each person reacts differently, but often a bulls eye- or target-patterned rash develops three to 30 days after a tick bite. Also, infected people often develop flu-like symptoms such as headache, muscle and joint aches, a fever, sore throat or swollen glands.
Lyme disease is usually treated with antibiotics over a four- to six-week period.
Not surprisingly, the best course of action to prevent Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and other tick-borne infections is to lower your risk of tick bites by avoiding wooded, bushy areas when possible. Checking for ticks and safely removing any that are found is also key.
For parents, that means paying particular attention to your child’s underarms as well as in and around the ears and belly button, in hair and elsewhere.
If you or your child is bitten by a tick, don’t panic; remove the tick as quickly as possible. Use tweezers to remove ticks by grabbing them as close to the skin as possible and use even pressure while pulling upward to avoid leaving the tick’s mouth attached. After removing the tick, clean the area with alcohol or soap and water.
If you develop a rash, fever or other symptoms within a month of removing a tick, see your doctor and remember to tell her about the bite.
Summer is a great time for kids (and adults) to get out and have fun in the sun. It’s also a good time to remember that if you live in an area with lots of ticks and tick-borne illnesses to take precautions and be alert for these disease carriers. Here’s a short video on Lyme disease.