The surest way to prevent Lyme or other tick-borne diseases is to avoid being bitten by ticks. In Minnesota, the highest risk is in the southeast, east central and north central areas of the state. But ticks are found across the state, in grassy fields, brush-filled wooded landscapes and places where residential neighborhoods meet the forest edge. If you work or recreate in these environments, take special precautions against attracting ticks to yourself or your loved ones.
Most people contract Lyme disease from the bite of an infected deer tick. Not all ticks are infected; infection rates vary from one locality to another. Nymphal deer ticks are tiny, about the size of a poppy seed. Because their bite is painless, you may not notice them. The longer ticks are attached, the greater the risk for developing Lyme or other tick-transmitted diseases. Bites lasting less than 24 hours rarely cause disease but when infected ticks remain attached for their entire 3-4 day feeding period, the risk of infection is greater than 90%. Take these steps to reduce the risk of a bite or tick attachment lasting more than 24 hours.
Print the Lyme disease awareness and prevention article
8 Tips for Lyme Disease Prevention
- Reduce tick habitat where you live, work and play. Ticks dry out easily, preferring areas that provide shade and moisture.
- On your property, remove fallen leaves, cut the grass short and keep wood piles neat to reduce tick numbers.
- Use sprays containing permethrin on your clothing, footwear, camping and hunting gear and 30% DEET or 20% picaridin on your skin.
- Check yourself and your animals for ticks immediately and for several days after being in a tick-infested area. Promptly put tick-exposed clothing into the dryer for 60 min on high heat and take a shower; vigorous scrubbing will remove ticks that aren’t fully attached.
- Carefully remove and save attached ticks for your doctor to identify
- Tuck shirts into pants, pant legs into socks, etc, to inhibit tick movement
- Make tick checks a habit for all family members after outdoor activity. The sooner ticks are found and removed, the less chance you and your family have of getting infected.
- Landscape to discourage ticks from hanging around your yard. The Tick Management Handbook describes several steps (begins on page 40).
If you are bitten in MN or WI, discuss using antibiotics to prevent disease with your doctor. A medical paper on managing tick bites is available at www.mnlyme.org/patients; click on the big tick. Print the paper and have your doctor read it before discussing your options. It’s important to know that:
- Waiting to see if an EM rash develops is risky because many patients never develop one
- A single dose of doxycycline isn’t very effective
- Better options use longer courses of antibiotics.