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How to Prevent Lyme Disease

Ruth Kandel, MD's picture
Prevent Lyme Disease
Prevent Lyme Disease

Getting outside and moving is an important part of a healthy lifestyle at any age. When exploring all that New England has to offer in the summer, it’s important to take steps to avoid Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is commonly spread through the bite of infected ticks that can be found in places like your backyard or outdoor recreational areas. Whether you have been out walking in tall dune grass at the beach, or the grassy area by the playing field at a grandchild’s soccer game, it’s important to check for ticks.

Lyme disease is a serious condition. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes. You can also have a characteristic “bull’s eye” skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.

Don’t let Lyme disease interfere with your love of the outdoors. Here are some precautions you can take:

  • When spending time outdoors, use a repellent with 20 percent DEET. Also, clothing treated with permethrin kills ticks.
  • Check for ticks daily—on yourself as well as on children and grandchildren. They like to hide in folds of skin and on the scalp. Having someone else check your hair is better than trying to do this alone. It’s a good idea to check pets too.
  • Shower soon after being outdoors.
  • Tumble clothes in a hot dryer for one hour to kill hidden ticks.
  • Call your doctor if you get a fever or rash.

A Lyme disease rash as well as fever, muscle-and-joint pain, or fatigue may appear within three to 30 days. Patients treated with appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of Lyme disease usually recover rapidly and completely.

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Geriatrician, Hebrew SeniorLife, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Ruth Kandel obtained her bachelor's degree from State University of New York, Buffalo and her medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She completed a residency in internal medicine at Boston City Hospital and a geriatrics fellowship at Bedford Veteran's Administration Hospital/Boston University Medical Center. She provides inpatient primary care and is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Her academic interests include Alzheimer's disease, memory disorders, and...

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