Preventing Lyme Disease-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Monday, July 1, 2013

Preventing Lyme Disease

The arrival of summer means more time spent doing outdoor activities, such as swimming, hiking, camping, golfing, etc.  However, the perfect weather for outdoor entertainment also equals the perfect weather for blacklegged ticks carrying the nasty little bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease. 

There are some simple ways to protect yourself when entering grassy, wooded areas that might house these critters:
  •   Use an insect repellent that contains 20-30% DEET.
  •   Wear clothes treated with permethrin.
  •   Take a shower as soon as you come indoors.
  •   Inspect your body for ticks—especially under arms, behind knees, in hair, and where clothing is generally tight (they look like little black/brown dots).
  •   Put clothes in the dryer for an hour to kill remaining ticks.
If you find a tick that has attached itself:
  1. Do not panic.  Ticks cannot even begin to transmit disease until after the first 24 hours of attachment.
  2. To remove the tick, grasp as close as possible to the skin with fine tipped tweezers, and pull straight upward in a slow, steady motion. Your main concern is to remove the body of the tick. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. Thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
  4. Do NOT try to burn the tick off with a match or use other “folklore” remedies, such as petroleum jelly or painting the tick with nail polish.


After a tick bite, if you live in an area known for Lyme disease, or if you were recently in a region where it occurs and observe any of these symptoms, seek medical help:  A red, expanding rash that looks like a bulls-eye; fatigue; chills; fever; headache; muscle and joint aches; and swollen lymph nodes. 


Follow these guidelines, and you should have no reason to get “tick”-ed off about Lyme disease this summer.

By: Angela Reid, angelar@andrew.cmu.edu, 412-268-7502