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The Outdoors and Lyme Disease

June 7, 2013

It’s that time of the year when most of us are outside playing, camping, exploring and working in areas that have ticks in the grass and wooded areas. It’s great to be outside, but there is also the risk of tick bites, which can bring on diseases, most commonly Lyme disease.


Lyme Disease is an illness spread by ticks that can affect the skin, nervous system, heart and joints. Most cases occur in June and July of each year. Lyme Disease can affect anyone, especially if they spend a lot of time in the outdoors where ticks live. Those who get bit by a tick carrying the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi and do not remove it right away, have a greater chance of getting Lyme disease.


An early sign of Lyme disease can be a large circular red rash at or near the site of the tick bite that CAN appear like a “Bull’s eye” with a clear center. The rash is frequently not identified and may develop more rash spots if not detected early. One can also have “flu like symptoms” such as fever, headaches, extreme tiredness, a stiff neck, muscle and joint pains. These symptoms can last for several weeks and begin usually within a month of getting bit. The swelling and pain in the joints can last several years if untreated along with heart problems.


Treatment/Prevention:

  1. Prevent tick bites by wearing long sleeve, long pants, high socks along with high boots and a hat in grass and wooded areas where ticks are found. Tuck pants into boots and wear light colored clothing so ticks can be seen.
  2. Check for ticks after and during time spent in grassy and wooded areas. You may need help in checking all areas as ticks can be pencil point in size or look like a new freckle on your body. Ticks most commonly can be found under your arms, thighs, on the arms and legs.
  3. Use tick repellents containing DEET for applying on skin and use Permethrin on clothing. Read labels carefully for correct application and use of repellents. Do not get near eyes, mouth, lips, and open skin areas. Wash hands thoroughly after each use.
  4. Remove ticks immediately using a tweezer by grabbing on as close to the tick’s head as possible and pulling straight out. Do not twist or squeeze the tick when removing it and then destroy it. Wash hands and site thoroughly after removing tick and apply an antiseptic to the tick bite area.
  5. Contact your physician if a rash occurs and/or "flu-like symptoms" so he/she can determine if you have Lyme disease and need antibiotic treatment. If antibiotic treatment is needed, children older than 7 years and adults will need Tetracycline or Doxycycline. For Children 7 years and younger, Penicillin is used.

Once treated with antibiotics, this DOES NOT MEAN YOU CAN’T GET IT AGAIN.


The outdoors and summer can be great but take the precautions to prevent many of the diseases that can occur from ticks and other outdoor pests! If you have questions, please call your physician or Boone County Public Health at (515) 432-1127 or 1 (800) 395-9737.


The article was submitted by Colleen Farley, RNBC, Boone County Public Health and Boone County Hospital

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