HIGHLY SENSITIVE AND SPECIFIC LOW-COST LAB-ON-A-CHIP SYSTEM FOR LYME DISEASE DIAGNOSIS
 

HOW TO AVOID TICK BITES

In addition to appropriate hosts, vegetation characteristics are also important for the maintenance of tick populations. In general, activity will begin in spring and early summer, with ticks being found on vegetation and animals from late March. In habitats where desiccation is high, such as open areas, periods of activity will be shortened to only a few weeks - as opposed to several months in dense woodlands. In some areas a second, less intense, phase of questing activity occurs in the autumn.

Larval and nymphal deer ticks often hide in shady, moist ground litter, but adults can often be found above the ground clinging to tall grass, brush, and shrubs. They also inhabit lawns and gardens, especially at the edges of woodlands and around old stone walls where deer and white-footed mice, the ticks' preferred hosts, thrive. Within the endemic range of B. burgdorferi (the spirochete that infects the deer tick and causes LD), no natural, vegetated area can be considered completely free of infected ticks.

Deer ticks cannot jump or fly, and do not drop from above onto a passing animal. Potential hosts (which include all wild birds and mammals, domestic animals, and humans) acquire ticks only by direct contact with them. Once a tick latches onto human skin it generally climbs upward until it reaches a protected or creased area, often the back of the knee, groin, navel, armpit, ears, or nape of the neck. It then begins the process of inserting its mouthparts into the skin until it reaches the blood supply.

In tick-infested areas, the best precaution against LD is to avoid contact with soil, leaf litter and vegetation as much as possible. However, if you garden, hike, camp, hunt, work outdoors or otherwise spend time in woods, brush or overgrown fields, you should use a combination of precautions to dramatically reduce your chances of getting Lyme disease:

When spending time outdoors, make these easy precautions part of your routine:

  • Wear enclosed shoes and light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily
  • Scan clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors
  • Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails
  • Use insect repellant containing DEET (Diethyl-meta-toluamide) on skin or clothes if you intend to go off-trail or into overgrown areas
  • Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls (havens for ticks and their hosts)
  • Keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening
  • Do a final, full-body tick-check at the end of the day (also check children and pets)

When taking the above precautions, consider these important facts:

  • If you tuck long pants into socks and shirts into pants, be aware that ticks that contact your clothes will climb upward in search of exposed skin. This means they may climb to hidden areas of the head and neck if not intercepted first; spot-check clothes frequently.
  • Clothes can be sprayed with either DEET or Permethrin. Only DEET can be used on exposed skin, but never in high concentrations; follow the manufacturer's directions.
  • Upon returning home, clothes can be spun in the dryer for 20 minutes to kill any unseen ticks
  • A shower and shampoo may help to remove crawling ticks, but will not remove attached ticks. Inspect yourself and your children carefully after a shower. Keep in mind that nymphal deer ticks are the size of poppy seeds; adult deer ticks are the size of apple seeds.

Any contact with vegetation, even playing in the yard, can result in exposure to ticks, so careful daily self-inspection is necessary whenever you engage in outdoor activities and the temperature exceeds 7° C (the temperature above which deer ticks are active). Frequent tick checks should be followed by a systematic, whole-body examination each night before going to bed. Performed consistently, this ritual is perhaps the single most effective current method for prevention of Lyme disease.

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