Developing A Routine to Prevent Lyme Disease

Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

I have written about preventing the summer afflictions of Lyme disease and tickscaping my home’s landscape in order to decrease the tick population on our property. Today’s post covers other important aspects of tickborne illness prevention: Developing a routine for personal protection, early detection and removal of ticks in order to prevent Lyme disease and other infectious diseases transmitted by the black-footed tick bite.

Gardeners, hikers, campers, golfers, and children who play outside are all at risk for tick acquisition. Ticks cannot jump or fly. Instead, they generally attach to the foot, ankle or leg of someone passing by a blade of grass, weed, piles of leaves or brush where they are fixated. The knowledge that ticks do not fly or jump informs how we can prevent them from immediately attaching to our skin, which includes developing a routine before going to tick infected areas and performing a tick check and removal when returning home.

Lyme Disease and other tickborne illnesses are on the rise. Unfortunately, however, the diagnosis is often missed or delayed. Treatment may be unpleasant and sometimes ineffective but it makes sense to have routines in place for personal protection, early detection and proper removal of ticks in order to continue to enjoy outdoor activities and stay healthy and safe this summer.

To create a  routine of personal protection to decrease ticks from attaching to your skin, follow these steps: (Source: CDC)

  1. Start with the lowest risk form of protection: put on a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and closed-toed shoes, and tuck your pants into your socks.
  2. Wear light colored clothing so that you can more readily see ticks.
  3. Apply insect repellent to all exposed skin after you’ve put on sunscreen, but not under your clothes. Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. EPA’s helpful search tool can help you find the product that best suits your needs. Always follow product instructions. However, Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old and do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.
  4. Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% Permethrin, which can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings. Permethrin is considered to be an insecticide with some repellent properties and is regulated by the EPA.  When a tick comes into contact with Permethrin, it should absorb a dose that will either repel or kill it. If you do want to use permethrin-treated clothing, you can buy it pretreated with the insecticide or spray it onto clothing yourself. Permethrin bonds to the fabric fibers for up to 6 weeks (42 days) or 6 washings and requires careful attention to application based on the instructions that come with the product chosen. Be sure to spray clothes while they’re hanging up (not while wearing them), and never apply permethrin directly to your skin. Allow the clothes to dry for several hours before putting them on. The amount of permethrin allowed in factory treated clothing is very low, and scientific studies indicate that human exposure resulting from wearing permethrin factory-treated clothing also is low. Available data show that Permethrin is poorly absorbed through the skin. InsectShield and Orvis bugsaway are two companies that make this type of gear.

Start the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.