Lyme Disease: Basic Information and Prevention

By Donna Jones, PT

With summer weather and the increase in outdoor activity for many of us, an article on Lyme disease basics and prevention seems appropriate.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by a spirochete called Borrelia burgdorferi. Lyme is primarily transmitted on the East Coast by deer ticks and on the West Coast by black-legged ticks, which are both typically found in wooded or grassy areas. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease in the U.S. every year. As diagnosing Lyme remains difficult, experts believe the actual number could be much higher. There is a plethora of great information on Lyme Disease. We encourage you to check out www.palyme.org.

Since there is large amount of literature on Lyme disease, this article will focus on practical tips and ideas for prevention of Lyme disease for you and your loved ones.

  • Best defense against tick-borne illness is to avoid direct contact with ticks.
  • Next best defense is to quickly find and remove any ticks that may latch onto you.
  • When hiking, stay on cleared trails instead of walking across grassy fields. Playing in leaves, leaning against trees, and gathering firewood are high risk activities.
  • Wear shoes, socks, long pants and long sleeves. Light-colored clothing helps you spot ticks.
  • Wear a hat. Tie back long hair.
  • You can purchase clothing that has been pre-treated with the repellent permethrin or you can purchase permethrin and spray clothing yourself (treat both the inside and outside of your clothes). Spray footwear with permethrin which will help prevent ticks from crawling up your shoes.
  • Use repellent on exposed skin.
  • Check for ticks when outdoors, periodically inspect your clothing and skin for ticks.
  • Shower – once home, take a shower right away. This will wash away unattached ticks and allow you to inspect yourself, and pay attention to hidden places. Parents should check their children.
  • Hot Dryer: running your clothes in a hot dryer for 10 minutes before you wash them will kill any ticks that may be there.
  • Protect your pets – consult with your veterinarian. Pets can act like a “tick magnet” carrying ticks inside your home.