Warmer weather means more and more people are enjoying time outdoors. But with the sunshine comes tick season, which usually runs from April to October.
Experts are predicting an increased number of ticks in Connecticut this year due to a mild winter. And more ticks means an increased risk of Lyme disease.
“Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in North America,” says Henry Anyimadu, MD, chief of infectious disease for MidState Medical Center and The Hospital of Central Connecticut.
Here are 3 steps you can take to prevent Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.
Ticks spread bacteria from animals, which causes Lyme disease.
Ticks contract the bacteria that causes Lyme disease by feeding on certain animals, like deer. If that infected tick then bites a human, it can spread the bacteria – resulting in Lyme disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 500,000 people are infected with Lyme disease every year.
“This time of year we always see an increase in patients coming in with tick bites,” says Jessica Mason, DO, primary care physician with the Hartford HealthCare Medical Group in Southington. “I’ve already seen a couple patients so far this year diagnosed with Lyme disease.”
> Related: Springtime Tick Guide: Bite Prevention, Management and Treatment
Flu-like symptoms might be a sign of Lyme disease.
Lyme disease causes a rash that looks like a bullseye. It also causes flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, headache, fatigue and muscle aches.
“Lyme disease can be serious. As it progresses, it can affect several parts of the body, including the skin, nervous system, eyes, heart and joints. Getting treatment early is extremely important,” Dr. Anyimadu adds.
> Want more health news? Text StartHere to 85209 to sign up for text alerts
How can I protect myself from Lyme disease?
Avoiding ticks is the best way to prevent Lyme disease. And if you do find a tick, early removal can also help prevent infection.
“The tick has to be attached to a person for about 24 hours to be able to transmit the bacteria,” Anyimadu explains.
People are encouraged to do the following:
- Wear insect repellent when spending time outdoors.
- Wear long sleeves, long pants, shoes and socks in wooded or grassy areas where ticks are usually found.
- After spending time outside, do a body check to see if there are any ticks on your clothing or skin. Once on the body, ticks can most often be found in these areas on both adults and children: under the arms, around the ears, behind knees, between legs, on your head or inside the belly button.