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Understanding Lyme Disease: How to Prepare for 2016 Tick Season

There are many things that pet owners must be prepared for when the heat of summer rolls around–not the least of which is figuring out how to keep their pet cool, comfortable and hydrated. One of the lesser considered, albeit still incredibly important, concerns about hot summer days is preparing against tick season–and the Lyme disease that can come with it.

About Ticks and Lyme Disease

Lyme disease begins with the bite of a deer tick or black-legged tick, which are normally found in wooded and grassy areas. Fortunately, ticks that are found and removed shortly after attaching are unlikely to cause lyme disease in the host because they must attach to the individual’s body for no less than thirty-six hours in order to infect them. The bacterial infection transmitted by these tiny arachnids results in a disease that is marked by fever, headache and tiredness. Individuals who are not treated rapidly may suffer from massive headaches, joint pain, heart palpitations and much more.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly three hundred thousand Americans in the United States are diagnosed with Lyme disease each and every year. Unfortunately, the symptoms of Lyme disease are easily confused with the symptoms of other illnesses, which means that some individuals who are suffering from Lyme disease may not even know about it–and the true number of Lyme disease cases in our country may actually be considerably higher.

Preparing for Tick Season

The best treatment for Lyme disease is prevention, which begins with the proper care of your pet during summer months. Since ticks are normally found in wooded and grassy areas between the months of April and September, these are the places and times to be especially diligent about protecting your pet and yourself. Following are some basic tips for preventing against and handling ticks:

1. Use a tick preventative for your pet, home and yard. There are topical medications, oral medications, collars and even home and yard treatments that are designed to prevent against tick infestations. You can consult with your veterinarian to find out which options will work best to meet your needs and personal desires. Be aware that your vet may suggest several preventative measures at once if you live in an especially high-exposure location.

2. Check your pet and yourself regularly for ticks. During the height of tick season, it is wise to frequently check your pet’s and your own body for ticks. As deer and black-legged ticks are quite small and will thoroughly bury their head in the host’s body, you need to carefully check everywhere. For your pet, start at their head and carefully and slowly run your fingers over their entire body, carefully checking under their arms, tail, and chin, between their toes and in any other area where a tick could be hidden. Visually inspect their ears and be especially thorough in any areas where they are persistently scratching. Do the same for yourself in the shower or bath, using both your hands and a mirror to thoroughly check your entire body, including under your arms, behind your ears, in your belly button, behind your knees, around your waist and in your hair.

3. Wear long sleeves and pants to help prevent ticks from transferring onto your body. If you find a tick on your clothing, place your clothing in the dryer on high heat for at least ten minutes.

4. If you find a tick on your pet’s or your own body, be very careful and deliberate about removing it properly. A tick that is crushed or poorly removed can leave body parts behind in the host’s body, causing further irritation and health issues. Never try to burn a tick off the host body with a match, as it may burn the pet or individual. Instead, use tweezers to grasp the tick’s head as close to the host’s body as possible. Then pull the tick upwards out of the host body, without twisting or crushing it. After submerging the tick in alcohol for several minutes and then disposing of it, thoroughly cleanse the bite area with alcohol, soap and water. If the area seems particularly red, irritated or swollen, seek medical advice.

Ticks and Lyme disease are an unfortunate and unpleasant truth of summer, but they can be prevented against if one is adequately prepared.

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