In an effort to educate Rhode Islanders of the dangers posed by ticks this time of year, the Department of Health (RI DOH) urges all Rhode Islanders to protect themselves from tick bites and to check themselves for ticks after spending time outdoors to help prevent Lyme disease.
"We want people to enjoy all of the wonderful outdoor activities that Rhode Island has to offer," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "We also want to remind everyone that preventing tick bites is still the best way to avoid being infected with Lyme disease. A combination of a few simple preventive measures and daily tick checks can help you and your family have a healthy summer."
To protect yourself from tick bites, RI DOH recommends that you:
• Wear light-colored, long pants and long-sleeve shirts when outdoors. (Light-colored fabrics make it easier to spot ticks.)
• Tuck your pants into your socks so that ticks cannot crawl under clothing.
• Use bug spray that contains at least 20% DEET on skin and use permethrin on clothing. Follow manufacturers' safety precautions, especially for children.
• Avoid wooded and bushy areas. Avoid areas with high grass and lots of leaves. If you do hike or walk through the woods, walk in the center of the trail.
• Check yourself and your family for ticks every day, especially if you spend a lot of time outside in grassy or wooded areas.
• Protect your pets. Sprays and tick-control products for dogs and cats help prevent tick bites and can kill ticks on contact. Groom or brush pets after coming indoors.
• Remove ticks properly and immediately. Use fine, pointy tweezers and get as close to the skin as possible. Grab the tick's head, or directly above the head, and pull up slowly and steadily. Never use petroleum jelly or lotions, and do not try to burn the tick off.
• Create a "tick-safe zone" in your yard.
- Mow the lawn frequently and keep leaves raked.
- Stack wood neatly in a dry area to discourage rodents that ticks feed on.
- Keep play equipment, decks, and patios away from woods and trees. Put them in a sunny location, if possible, because it's more difficult for ticks to survive in the sun.
- Get rid of old furniture, mattresses, or trash that may give ticks a place to hide.
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria that spread through the bite of an infected tick. Initial symptoms of Lyme disease can include a "bullseye" rash anywhere on the skin and facial or Bell's palsy (loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face). If Lyme disease remains undiagnosed, after a few weeks, symptoms can include severe headaches and neck stiffness due to meningitis (inflammation of the spinal cord), pain and swelling in the large joints (such as knees), shooting pains that may interfere with sleep, and heart palpitations and dizziness due to changes in heartbeat. Anyone with symptoms of Lyme disease should contact their healthcare provider.
The Department of Health has launched a statewide Lyme-prevention media campaign that includes partnerships with the Great Outdoors Pursuit and the Pawtucket Red Sox. Visit the RI DOH's website for more information on Lyme Disease.