Much of the Western UP has been identified by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as a confirmed area with blacklegged ticks present with Lyme bacteria. Lyme disease cases in the UP have increased in recent years, so it is essential to increase your effort to protect yourself from ticks.
Lyme disease is caused by a bite from a tick, typically a deer tick, infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorfeir. Because ticks must be attached for 24-48 hours before the bacteria can be transmitted, prompt removal is extremely important. With certain precautions, Lyme disease is easily preventable and can be treated with antibiotics if identified early.
Anyone with a known tick bite or who has been in a tick habitat should watch for symptoms for at least 30 days after exposure. In addition to the bullseye rash, initial symptoms of Lyme disease mimic the flu and include: fever, headache, nausea, fatigue, and muscle aches that appear a few days after the bite. These initial symptoms may clear up and then reappear. Some people infected with Lyme disease will show no symptoms at all during the first month of infection. Secondary symptoms can begin to appear weeks or months after the initial tick bite and may include: heart and nervous system problems, meningitis, facial paralysis (Bell’s palsy), as well as pain in the joints, tendons, and muscles. If symptoms develop, call your physician.
Most humans are infected through the bites of immature ticks called nymphs. Nymphs are tiny (less than 2 mm) and difficult to see; they feed during the spring and summer months. Adult ticks can also transmit Lyme disease bacteria, but they are much larger and are more likely to be discovered and removed before they have time to transmit the bacteria.
Whenever possible, avoid entering areas that are likely to be infested with ticks, such as wooded areas with abundant leaf-litter and grassy or brush dominated areas. If you are going to be in areas that may be tick infested, there are several ways you can protect yourself.
- Walk in the center of trails, away from heavy brush.
- Wear light colored clothing so ticks can be spotted more easily, and removed before attachment
- Wear long sleeved shirts and pants tucked into socks or boot tops to keep ticks from reaching your skin.
- Ticks are usually located close to the ground, so boots or shoes and not sandals, are recommended.
- Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Allow clothing to thoroughly dry before wearing. Permethrin can remain protective through several washings.Do not apply permethrin directly to skin.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of eucalyptus (OLE), paramenthane-idol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes, and mouth. Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old. Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.
Find and Remove Ticks from Your Body
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
- Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
- Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs.
- Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.
If you find a tick attached to your skin, there’s no need to panic. There are several tick removal devices on the market, but a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers will remove a tick quite effectively. To remove a tick:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
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