Westchester County and the surrounding areas are high-risk areas for Lyme disease, an infection caused primarily by a bacteria carried by deer ticks. Ticks remain active year-round, as long as the temperature is above 35 degrees. Early Lyme symptoms may include rash, flu-like symptoms, joint and muscle pain, which can become severe.
Dr. Sandra Kesh, Westmed’s infectious disease specialist, urges families to avoid tick bites by taking the following precautions:
- Stay out of the bushes — Ticks like to hide out in tall grass and shrubs.
- Wear the right clothing — Wear light-colored clothes that cover your body. Ticks are easier to detect and less likely to latch onto your skin this way.
- Wear enclosed shoes when spending time outdoors.
- Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls (havens for ticks).
- Keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening.
- Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails.
- Consider repellants — A DEET-based spray on your skin can deter ticks if you intend to go off-trail or into overgrown areas. Permethrin repellents can be used on clothing as well, but do not apply permethrin to your skin.
- Check frequently for ticks while outdoors, and do a final body scan at the end of the day. Pay special attention to underarms, the backs of knees, waist, groin and scalp. Check your children and pets.
If you find a tick on yourself, a family member or pet, remove it by grasping its head with fine-tipped tweezers and pulling gently, away from the body.
Dr. Kesh advises you to consider calling and seeing your Westmed doctor in the following cases:
- After removing a tick to see if it is reasonable to get a dose of preventative antibiotics
- If you develop an expanding rash at the site of a tick bite; and
- If you develop “typical” early Lyme symptoms: fever, joint or muscle aches, headache or fatigue.