George Little: take precautions against Lyme disease

June 10, 2011 at 07:02 AM

It’s that time of year again. Insidious predators that want a taste of our blood are hard at it.

Considering that both species do basically the same thing, I’m more worried about ticks than I am about vampires. I watched Buffy dispatch enough vampires to lose respect for fangs and capes.

The smaller bloodsuckers are another matter. They work day and night and are much harder to see. Between now and the first hard freeze, if you spend any time in the wild country, running in the park, riding a bike or on horseback, Mr. Tick is out there licking his tiny little chops.

Insect repellents containing DEET, applied to exposed skin, will keep ticks at bay. Repellents containing Permethrin can be used to treat clothing and shoes but should not be applied to skin. Always read and follow label directions. Always supervise children in the use of repellents. And remember, the key to the effectiveness of any insect repellent is remembering to apply it.

Ticks don’t jump out of trees. They live in the tall grass or low brush and attach themselves to warm-blooded creatures giving off carbon dioxide. You and I are on the menu. Some researchers contend ticks can detect a warm-blooded creature from 18 feet away.

Lyme disease is tick-borne illness that is most prevalent in areas with large deer populations. Deer carry the disease-causing bacteria in their stomachs. Ticks ingest the bacteria when they are attached to a deer. The ticks then pass it on to the next host.

Remove ticks embedded on yourself or someone else as soon as you can. The longer a tick stays embedded, the greater the chance it will transmit a disease. Remove an embedded tick with a pair of tweezers, grasping its head and pulling it straight out. That’s because the disease-causing bacteria is in the insect’s stomach. Squeezing the body may inject the bacteria into yours.

Not many of us carry a pair of tweezers. If the first-aid kit in your vehicle doesn’t include a pair, put some in it.

The bull’s eye rash associated with Lyme disease appears a day or sometimes a week after the tick is removed. Keep an eye on the spot where the tick was imbedded. If the rash appears, get medical attention immediately. Lyme disease is treatable with antibiotics. The sooner treatment begins, the more effective it will be. There is no Lyme disease immunization.

Lyme disease is not contagious. If you have contracted Lyme disease once, you are not immune to it. Your body does not build up resistance. You can get it again.

Not every tick carries Lyme disease bacteria. But why take a chance when the precautions are fairly simple? One particularly insightful government website says, “The best way to protect yourself against Lyme disease is to avoid tick bites.”

What a revelation! I love seeing my tax dollars in action.

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