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July 1, 2005

County Residents Should Be on Look-Out for Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Now that school is out, families are planning camping trips, picnics, hikes, and many other outdoor activities. Oswego County Health Commissioner Kathleen Smith reminds residents that the risk of exposure to Lyme disease increases when people spend more time outdoors.

Lyme disease is caused by the bite of an infected deer tick. In tick-prone areas, any contact with vegetation, even playing in the yard, can result in exposure to ticks, said Smith.

Deer ticks have been found in Oswego County. According to the New York State Department of Health, the risk of Lyme disease is present throughout New York State.

Lyme disease can have serious complications if it is not identified and treated early. The most noticeable early sign of Lyme disease is a rash resembling a bull's-eye, or solid patch, which usually, but not always, develops between 3 and 30 days after the tick bite.

The rash often expands over time and can last for several weeks. In some cases, no rash appears, while in other cases, there are multiple rashes. The rash does not normally itch or feel painful.

Other symptoms of early Lyme disease include fever, fatigue, headache, stiff neck, muscle aches and joint pain. "If you notice these signs or symptoms, consult a health care provider immediately," advises Smith.

The following precautions are recommended to help avoid tick bites:

  • When in tick-infested habitat-wooded and grassy areas-wear light-colored clothing (to spot ticks) and tuck pants into socks and shirt into pants.
  • After every two to three hours outdoors, check for ticks on clothing or skin. Brush off any ticks on clothing before they can attach to your skin. Also, check your children and pets for ticks.
  • Do a thorough tick-check of your entire body at the end of the day. Pay particular attention to the back of the knees, behind the ears, the scalp, the armpits and your back.
  • Removing a tick within 36 hours after it begins feeding, reduces your risk of infection. To remove a tick: Use tweezers, grasping the tick near the mouthparts, as close to the skin as possible. Don't squeeze, crush or puncture the body of the tick, which may contain infectious fluids. Pull the tick in a steady, upward motion away from the skin.
  • After removing the tick, disinfect the bite site with soap, rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Wash your hands carefully. Record the date and location of the tick bite. If a rash appears or you experience flu-like symptoms over the next 30 days, contact your health care provider immediately.
  • Consider using insect repellents to reduce tick bites. Follow label instructions carefully. Use repellents only in small amounts, avoiding unnecessary repeat application.
  • Children may be at greater risk for reactions to repellents, in part, because their exposure may be greater. Do not apply repellents directly to children. Apply to your own hands and then put it on the child.
  • Do not apply repellents near eyes, nose or mouth and use sparingly around ears. Do not apply to the hands of small children.

Tick repellents contain the active ingredients DEET, permethrin, or botanical oils. Be sure to always read and carefully follow the instructions on the product label before using repellents.

Record the date and location of the tick bite. If a rash or flu-like symptoms appear, contact your health care provider immediately.

To learn more about Lyme disease, call the Oswego County Health Department at 349-3564 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3564, or visit the New York State Department of Health's Web site at www.health.state.ny.us.

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