The best way to avoid Lyme disease and tick-borne illnesses is to avoid contact with ticks and other biting insects that can carry the diseases. Further, it is a good idea to avoid animals that are known to carry them as well the environments where ticks & biting insects thrive. Tick-borne illnesses are NOT just found in New England or the Northeast part of the United States.
To date, Lyme disease and the ticks that carry the illnesses have been reported in every state in the U.S. as well as many countries all over the world.
Here are some ways to avoid being bitten by ticks:
- Avoid areas of tall grass or places with leaf litter. These are environments where ticks thrive throughout most of the year.
- If you cannot avoid the above, wear white or light-colored clothing to easily spot ticks that might be on your body.
- Use a non-toxic tick or insect repellent prior to hiking in wooded areas.
- Do a tick check on yourself, your loved ones and pets after walking through possible tick-prone areas.
- If you suspect ticks may be on your clothes, put them in the clothes dryer with the setting on “high heat” for 15-20 mins. This has been proven to kill most species of ticks.
- Do a tick check on your pets every time they come in from the outdoors and try to avoid sleeping with them if you haven’t done a check prior.
Be mindful of close contact with warm-blooded mammals who have been know to contract and carry Lyme disease:
Mice (especially the white-footed mouse in North America)
Opossums (although opossums are known to actually feed on all variety of ticks)
Note: It is uncommon for cats to contract Lyme disease, possibly due to their high body temperature which is not a hospitable environment for Lyme bacteria, but they do carry ticks that could possibly have been infected by other animals.
If you find a tick embedded in your skin, please DO NOT use nail polish, petroleum jelly,
alcohol or heat to remove the tick. Using these methods can put the tick into shock, causing it to regurgitate pathogens directly into the bloodstream.
To safely remove a tick, please do the following:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to its head and the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull straight upward without twisting or picking at the tick. Twisting can cause the tick’s head and mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove them with tweezers.
- After removing the tick, avoid any contact with blood or fluids coming from the tick. Thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water. Adding a drop or two of clove oil (oil of clove essential oils) directly on the bite area can help eradicate infection.
- Dispose of a live tick by placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers to avoid any possible contact with pathogens.
The following is a partial list of independent laboratories that do tick testing. Most offer mail-based service if you are not local.