This is the time of year when thousands of us are drawn into the forest to enjoy the serenity of nature. By doing so, we sometimes don=t realize that we expose ourselves to a possible cycle of disease that is normally restricted to wildlife. In the forest we may become accidental hosts for ticks and the disease they carry, including corkscrew-shaped bacterium which can travel through the bloodstream and cause Lyme disease.
The disease was named after a large outbreak among children in Lyme, Connecticut. Early symptoms of the disease can be mild and easily overlooked. A characteristic red rash usually occurs at the site of the tick bite, followed by flu-like symptoms such as headache, chills, fever and body aches. However, the bite may go entirely unnoticed or the symptoms may not seem serious enough to require medical attention. If caught in its early stages, the disease can be eliminated early. More severe symptoms may appear a few weeks to months later.
Because it takes 24-48 hours for a feeding tick to transmit the Lyme disease bacteria, examine yourself and your children while outdoors, when you get home, and again at night. As it takes several hours for a tick to attach itself to your body, taking a shower with a washcloth will help wash loose ones off. If you find an attached tick, use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible, and pull outward gently but firmly.
Mouth parts of adult ticks may sometimes remain in your skin, but these will not cause Lyme disease. After removal apply an antiseptic such as alcohol or an antibiotic ointment. Do not apply mineral oil, petroleum jelly, heat, or anything else to remove the tick. Redness at the site of a tick bite does not mean you are infected--a true Lyme disease rash usually lasts 2 to 3 weeks and often increases in size during that time. Do not try to pull a tick off with your fingers as this may cause the tick to inject bacteria into your body. Contact your physician if any symptoms of Lyme disease occur, especially if you know you have been bitten by a tick.
There are a number of measures we can take to avoid coming into contact with ticks:
While walking in the woods, stay on trails and avoid brushing up against low bushes or tall grass which are places where ticks wait for animals to pass by so they can attach to them for a meal. Remember that ticks do not hop, jump, fly or descend from trees--you must come into direct contact wit them.
Wear protective clothing, such as light-colored, long-sleeve shirt and light-colored pants tucked into boots or socks. The light-colored clothing allows you to more easily spot crawling ticks.
You can use an insect repellant but follow directions carefully.
These simple precautions can put you and your children more at ease while enjoying your activities in the woods this summer. Have fun.
Faculty/Staff Bulletin--July 17, 1997