May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. During this month and throughout the year, it’s critical that Pennsylvanians understand if you’re spending time outdoors, you should learn about the disease and ways to prevent it.
Pennsylvania has the highest number of reported Lyme disease cases in the United States. Deer ticks — the main carriers of the disease — are found in all 67 Pennsylvania counties.
How should we help program participants and visitors protect themselves while enjoying the outdoors?
Recently, the Get Outdoors PA program did a webinar that was packed full of great information about ticks, Lyme disease, and prevention. It’s worth a listen.
Here’s a condensed version:
Check Yourself Thoroughly
While you can contract Lyme disease any time of the year, spring through mid-summer is the most dangerous time because deer ticks are in their nymph stage and are about the size of a poppy seed, making them difficult to find on your body.
The best way to enjoy the outdoors and protect yourself from the disease is to check yourself thoroughly for ticks right after coming inside from the outdoors.
It takes about seven hours for deer ticks to find soft tissue on your body, such as your scalp, armpits, and groin, and burrow into your skin, so check yourself immediately after being outside.
How to Reduce Your Chances of Contracting Lyme Disease
While outdoors, you can take steps to reduce your chances of contracting the disease:
- Wear light colored clothing to more easily spot ticks on you
- Wear long sleeved shirts and full length pants, if the weather allows, and tuck your pants into your socks to make it more difficult for ticks to find your skin
- Walk in the center of trails, and avoid brushing up against plants and grasses
What are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease?
If you know you’ve had a tick bite, look for symptoms of Lyme disease, including fever, rash, paralysis, and arthritis.
It could take one to two weeks to show signs and symptoms of Lyme disease, and four to eight weeks to test positive for the disease.
Get Outdoors PA has a great rack card that can be printed and shared with park visitors or outdoor recreation program participants.
The key prevention tip: Always check yourself, children, and pets for ticks after being outside!
Think prevention, and enjoy the spring.