Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Don't let Lyme Disease Fears Keep You Away from Nature...

When I first moved to the East Coast from Illinois, fears of contracting Lyme disease kept me away from natural areas for awhile. After doing research though, I came up with a plan which would allow me to spend time in wild areas while avoiding Lyme disease.

First plan of action is to be as knowledgeable as possible about Lyme Disease. Be aware of the risks and know how to prevent it. Also know the symptoms so you can be treated as soon as possible if you contract it. A few simple precautions will go a long way toward keeping yourself safe. I used the following website to provide me with information because it is specific to my area: http://www.lymepa.org/ but I am sure there are lots of others with great information.

Here is my Lyme disease prevention plan when visiting natural areas:
  • Wear light colored clothing and check for ticks on yourself frequently.
  • Stay on trails and walk in the center of trails, away from tall grass.
  • Don't sit on the ground, fallen logs or stone walls...all places that harbor ticks.
  • Remove clothing after returning home, then wash and dry.
  • Take a shower with a wash cloth after returning home.
  • Check for ticks, especially along hairline, groin, armpits.
  • Whether you have spent time in a natural area that day or not, check for ticks nightly if you live in a tick prone area.
  • If you take your dog into natural areas, make sure you treat them monthly with Frontline and check them for ticks when returning home as well.
The crazy thing is I have never found a tick on myself after spending time in nature, but pulled one off of myself on a day spent at home just after moving here last October- proof that ticks can be anywhere. Luckily, the tick I pulled off wasn't engorged, a sign that it hadn't been on me long enough to transmit Lyme (I hope!).

Following these precautions will not guarantee that you don't get Lyme disease but they will go a long way from having you get it. The one difference between my Lyme disease prevention plan and that of the experts is that they suggest you apply DEET to your clothing. I have never followed this approach because of DEET's toxicity and have found that following the steps above, especially checking thoroughly for ticks afterward does the trick. Don't let fear keep you from enjoying nature when a few simple steps will keep you tick free.

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