Rockland County Executive Ed Day and County Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert remind residents that as you spend time outside this fall, be sure to protect yourself, your children, and pets from tick bites, especially as you go hiking, hunting, fishing, rake leaves, or take part in other outdoor activities. Be reminded that you are still at risk for tick bites in the fall months, as ticks can stay active until the temperature falls below freezing or the ground is completely covered in snow.
“A bite from an infected deer tick can cause Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, and this year the global emergence of COVID-19 is presenting a whole new set of challenges for diagnosing Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses as COVID-19 and Lyme share many symptoms. To minimize the risk of tick bites, be sure to walk in the center of paths, so you don’t brush up against bushes and other plants, stay out of leaf litter piles, and don’t sit on fallen trees, rock walls, or directly on the grass or ground,” said Dr. Ruppert.
In addition, follow these tips to protect yourself and your family:
- Check your skin for ticks daily. When outside, check your skin and clothing for ticks. Check often when in grassy or wooded areas. Brush any ticks off before they attach. Do a full check of your skin when you go back inside. Common areas on the body to check for ticks are the thighs, groin, trunk, and armpits. Bathe or shower as soon as possible after going indoors (best within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that may be on you. Do a final, full-body tick check at the end of the day (also check children and pets) and remove ticks promptly.
- Remove ticks quickly and safely. To lessen your chance of infection, remove an attached tick as soon as possible. Remove any attached ticks using this safe method: Using fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick near the mouth-parts as close to the skin as possible. Do not twist, turn, or squeeze the tick’s body. Instead, pull the tick in a steady, upward motion away from the skin until the tick lets go. After removing the tick, clean the bite area and your hands very well with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. For more information on tick bites, visit https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/pdfs/FS_TickBite-508.pdf. For tick identification, call the Cornell Cooperative Extension Horticultural Lab at (845) 429-7085.
- Dress in clothes that protect. Wear light-colored clothing, such as white or pastels. Wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, socks, and shoes. Tuck your shirt into your pants and pant-legs into your socks. Wear sneakers or boots, not sandals. Tie back long hair or wear a hat.
- Consider the use of an insect repellent. Carefully read and follow the directions on the repellent label. Some products should be used only on clothing, never on the skin. Talk to your child’s doctor about using repellents on your children. Never let children put repellents on themselves.
- Learn the symptoms of Lyme disease. After a tick bite, watch for symptoms for at least 30 days. Symptoms can include tiredness, headache, stiff neck, slight fever, swollen glands, muscle or joint pain, and a red circular rash (called erythema migrans) that often appears at the site of the tick bite, usually within 3 to 14 days after the bite of an infected tick. The rash then grows larger. Sometimes many rashes appear, varying in shapes and sizes. The center of the rash may clear as it enlarges, resulting in a “bull’s-eye” appearance. If you have any of these symptoms or are feeling ill, see your doctor.
When diagnosed and treated early, both Lyme and COVID-19 have a better chance of full recovery. Left untreated, Lyme and COVID-19 can spread to multiple organs and systems of the body resulting in worsening and chronic symptoms.
For more information, visit our Tick-borne Disease Education and Prevention Program or call the Health Department at (845) 364-2500.