Lyme disease prevention includes protecting people and animals – and destroying a tick’s natural habitat.
According to Dr. Neha Shah with the Piedmont Newnan Infectious Disease Division, folks should use an insect repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin or IR3535.
The bug spray should be placed on exposed skin for protection that lasts several hours.
Shah recommended using products that contain .5 percent permethrin on clothing, such as boots, pants, shirts and socks. The repellent also can be used on items such as backpacks and tents.
Once outside, people should try to avoid wooded, brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. Folks should also walk in the center of any nature trails, Shah added.
The best way to find and remove ticks is to shower within two hours after coming indoors, she said.
People should conduct a full-body check for ticks using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body.
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 in the hair, Shah said.
“My daughter and I went for a walk and I had her in a baby carrier the entire time. My family and I checked her (when we came inside) and didn't find anything. But the following morning we found a tick in her hair,” said Shah. “All I can figure is the tick traveled up me and onto her.”
The infectious disease expert recommended people also examine their clothing, any gear such as backpacks, and pets.
Folks can tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill any ticks attached to the items, Shah advised. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed, she added.
In order to reduce a tick’s natural habitat, Shah recommended applying pesticides to bushes and high, grassy areas around homes and buildings.
HOW 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 as 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 hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
Dispose of a live tick by submerging it in alcohol, place it in a sealed bag or container, wrap it tightly with tape or flush it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
Avoid folklore remedies such as "painting" the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible, not wait for it to detach.
(Information courtesy of Dr. Neha Shah with the Piedmont Newnan Infectious Disease Division)