Lyme Disease Awareness and Prevention
Take a Proactive Stance Against Lyme Disease
Time spent outdoors can bring memories that last a lifetime. The kind of memories we want to create do not involve ticks and Lyme disease, both prevalent in Pennsylvania. This first installment in a three-part series from Natural Awakenings South Central and Lancaster-Berks, Pennsylvania magazines provides background information and proactive tips for being prepared.
“Lyme disease was first discovered in the early 1980s by Dr. Willy Burgdorfer, who collected and analyzed a series of ticks in Old Lyme, Connecticut,” says Dr. Ross Marchegiani, of Turnpaugh Health and Wellness Centers, in Manheim and Mechanicsburg. “It was discovered that Lyme disease is a bacterial spirochete (Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato complex) that can be transported by different carriers, the most common being ticks, to affect the joints, immune system, cardiovascular system and central nervous system when infected.”
According to Dr. Robert Mauss, owner of Gettysburg Osteopathic Family Health Center, in Gettysburg, Lyme disease is a potentially life-threatening infection. Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria is transmitted by the bite of the Ixodes scapularis, or deer tick. “Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in North America,” he explains. “Pennsylvania has had the highest number of new cases for the last eight years.”
Outdoor enthusiasts, as well as those that stay in their own backyards, can take proactive measures. The National Capital Lyme Disease Association (NatCapLyme) suggests that the best way to avoid long-term consequences of Lyme and tick-borne illnesses is to prevent tick bites altogether. NatCapLyme has some tips to minimize exposure to disease-carrying ticks.
- Avoid tick-infested areas whenever possible. Wear light-colored clothing, long sleeves and pants and tuck pants into socks. Wear a hat and tie back long hair to make it harder for ticks to attach to the scalp.
- When walking or working in the woods for an extended period, use duct tape wrapped inside-out around the ankles to trap ticks attempting to crawl up the legs. Stay in the center of trails, avoiding contact with overhanging grass and brush.
- Wear EPA-approved repellents appropriate for adults or children. Carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application; some repellents are designed for application to clothes and equipment only.
- When coming in from outside activities where ticks may exist, put clothes in the dryer set on high heat for at least 30 minutes. Ticks cannot survive the dry heat. They can survive exposure to hot water, so skip the washing machine and expose the clothing to the high heat of the dryer first.
- After spending time outdoors, possibly exposed to ticks, make sure to get undressed in a dry bathtub to spot ticks that fall off clothing. Immediately shower using a washcloth to knock off any unattached ticks.
- Include a tick check in the family routine. Check dark, moist areas, hair and scalp, behind ears and knees, elbows, underarms, skin folds and the groin area. Though it may take time, it can become as simple as daily tooth brushing.
“Using essential oils such as eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, lemon, geranium, palmarosa, pennyroyal and cedarwood have shown to be effective in killing and repelling ticks,” offers Marchegiani. “The oils may need to be applied every two hours to clothing for maximum benefit. For those living in wooded areas, investing in ginny hens that eat ticks is a possible option or bug nets/tents may help.”
The Pennsylvania Lyme Resource Network provides Dare 2B Tick Aware seminars designed to improve the use of prevention strategies, reduce tick bites and improve early diagnosis. The program, created for schools, groups and businesses, uses the most current research available and standardizes prevention messages across the state.
PA Lyme Resource Network, PALyme.org; The National Capital Lyme Disease Association, NatCapLyme.org.
Dr. Robert Mauss, Gettysburg Osteopathic Family Health Center, 28 Apple Ave., Gettysburg, 717-334-2233, GettysburgOsteopath.com.
Dr. Ross Marchegiani, Mechanicsburg office: 717-795-9566, Manheim Office: 717-879-9899, DrRoss@TurnpaughHWC.com, TurnpaughHWC.com.