Can Lyme disease be prevented?

Most people with Lyme disease become infected during the late spring, summer, and early fall when immature ticks are out feeding. Except in warm climates, few tick bites take place during winter months.

Deer ticks are most often found in wooded areas and nearby grasslands. They are especially common where the two areas merge, including neighborhood yards where deer occasionally roam. Ticks do not survive long on sunny lawns; they dry out quickly and die. Although only about 1% of all deer ticks are infected, there are areas in which over 50% of the ticks carry the bacterium. The diseased ticks are often found in the U.S. Northeast and upper Midwest areas.

The following tips can help you avoid tick bites:

  • To repel ticks, you may want to spray your clothing with permethrin, an insecticide commonly found in lawn and garden stores. Insect repellents that contain a chemical called DEET can also be applied to clothing or directly onto skin. Read the labels carefully. Do not overuse, or they may cause harm.
  • Minimize skin exposure to both ticks and insect repellents by wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts that fit tightly at the ankles and wrists.
  • Wear a hat, tuck your pant legs into socks, and wear shoes that leave no part of your feet exposed.
  • Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to detect ticks.
  • Walk in the center of trails to avoid picking up ticks from overhanging grass and brush.
  • After outdoor activity in an "at risk" area, always do a tick check and then shower, scrubbing with a washcloth.
  • Get rid of any ticks on your clothes by putting them in the dryer for 15 minutes. This will kill any ticks attached to the clothes by drying them.
  • Pets may bring ticks into the home. Discuss ways to prevent ticks on your pet with your veterinarian.

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