Before you head out the door this summer, make sure you grab the bug spray. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Pennsylvania leads the nation in confirmed Lyme disease cases. Of the more than 28,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease diagnosed in 2018, 33 percent were in Pennsylvania.
Nationally, that number is about 476,000, and some experts think the number could eclipse 500,000 in 2021.
In Pennsylvania, Lyme disease (LD) is the most commonly reported tickborne disease and is usually seen during the months of May through September throughout the commonwealth.
“Dehydration and heat-related illness are what comes to mind when people think of summer illness,” says George Garber, RN, Director of Infection Prevention of Lower Bucks Hospital. “But Lyme disease is a very serious concern and it’s important to double check for ticks whenever you’re spending time outdoors.”
So, before the next time you’re ready to head outside to hike or camp, follow these tips to protect yourself and your family.
Use insect repellent
According to the PA Department of Health, you should use insect repellent on yourself or your family before heading outside. Spray insect repellent on exposed skin but be sure to keep it away from your hands, eyes and mouth as some of these repellents may be toxic. In choosing an insect repellent, look for a brand with 10 to 30 percent DEET, and reapply every two to three hours.
Wear long pants and sleeves
If you’re going to be camping, hiking, or walking through grassy or wooded areas, it’s best to cover as much skin as possible.
Wear long sleeves and long pants, and tuck your pants inside your socks, as these are some popular spots to find ticks.
Perform tick checks
When you’re back inside or finished with an outside activity, perform a tick check. Although ticks can be anywhere on the body, some of the most common areas are in and around your hair or ears, under your arms, behind your knees, or between your legs. Be sure to check clothing and bags, too.
Know the signs of Lyme disease
Even if you’re careful, ticks can still go unnoticed. Familiarize yourself with the warning signs of Lyme disease and notify your family physician immediately if you notice something out of the ordinary. Common early symptoms of Lyme disease include a fever, rash, fatigue, and achy muscles and joints.
“About two-thirds of people effected by Lyme Disease show the classic bull’s-eye rash. This means one in three cases aren’t showing common symptoms and patients should see their provider if there is concern of infection,” says Garber.
Looking for a primary care provider? Call Dr. Rita George at (215) 785-9677 to schedule an appointment.