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Healthy Tewksbury: Time To Guard Against Lyme Disease

Spring in New England means tick season is upon us. Here’s a refresher on the most common tick-borne illness in the US. 

Lyme disease is the most prevalent tick-borne disease in the Northeast, with most cases occurring June through August. Lyme is transmitted by black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis and Ixodes pacificus).

Lyme disease can cause a range of symptoms, from fever, rash and joint pain to more serious issues if left untreated, like arrhythmias and neurological problems. While most cases are easily treated with a course of antibiotics, some people develop chronic Lyme disease.

For this reason, all tick bites should be avoided, and if you spot a tick, you should take action. 

Avoiding Bites

Ticks are found on bushes, shrubs, long grass and even on household pets that spend time outdoors. Ticks require direct contact with the host to attach; they do not fly.

Commonly, tick bites occur when people are doing yardwork or hiking. When outside, wear light-colored clothing to help you easily detect ticks, and cover up as much as possible to limit skin exposure. Use bug sprays that contain Deet, picardin or Permethrin 0.5%, using caution and followin EPA guidelines when selecting which repellant to use on young children.  

When returning indoors, do a “tick check” on people and pets. Closely examine the hairline, armpits and groin, and take a shower within a few hours of returning inside. 

Taking Action

If you do find a tick, follow CDC directions. Attempt to remove it with tweezers by pulling straight up. If you are unable to remove the tick in one piece, try to remove the head. Do not, however, use tweezers to dig under the skin because that could cause infection. 

Make a note of when you may have picked up the tick. Lyme disease is extremely unlikely to be transmitted if the tick has been attached for less than 24 hours.

After removing the tick, seal it in a plastic bag if you are able, especially if the tick has been attached an unknown amount of time or longer than 24 hours. Bring it to your health care provider; labs can test ticks for Lyme disease, which will help decide if you need treatment.

If you are not able to bring the tick in or believe it was attached for only a short time, be on the lookout for symptoms like rash, fever, joint pain, fatigue and headache over the next few weeks, and call your healthcare provider if these occur so that you can be properly treated.

To aid in identification, residents can order wallet cards from the state.

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Nicole Burgett-Yandow, NP has a Masters Degree in Nursing with over 19 years of health care experience. Currently, she practices at Winchester Hospital Center for Weight Management as well as providing after hours on call coverage for patients within the Atrius system. She has worked in a variety of settings including primary care and infectious disease. She has been a Tewksbury resident since 2009 and has two kids in the Tewksbury Public Schools.

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