Sande Curtis, FNP at Cutler Health Center, gave an informative presentation about ticks and Lyme disease. She spoke about the history of Lyme disease and how ticks are a common carrier. The number of Lyme disease cases in Maine is increasing, and Curtis offered advice to protect yourself from ticks and Lyme disease this summer.
Curtis described two types of ticks you’ll see in Maine, deer ticks and dog ticks, and how to spot the difference between them. It is important know how to identify each as deer ticks are more likely to carry Lyme disease than dog ticks. Ticks transfer disease through their stomach content; a tick needs to be attached for approximately 36-48 hours before their stomach content can enter your bloodstream. If a tick is caught early enough the disease may not have had time to enter the bloodstream, emphasizing the importance of early detection.
Ticks are often caught after the 48 hour period because they are hard to spot. Curtis showed pictures of ticks through their life cycle from nymph to adult; the size of a nymph tick—the type most likely to spread Lyme disease—can range from poppy seed to sesame seed size. Many ticks spreading Lyme disease are so small that most of us won’t even notice, Curtis cautioned.
Lyme disease symptoms don’t usually occur until 3-14 days after the tick bite. It is important to monitor for symptoms during this period even if you removed the tick. The first symptom could be a bulls-eye shaped rash that can occur where you were bitten or anywhere else on your body. Other symptoms can occur later, including arthritis and swollen joints, nervous system problems, and irregular heart beat or cardiac inflammation. Diagnosing Lyme disease is difficult because tests are often false negatives up to four to six weeks after initial infection. Seeking medical attention sooner rather than later if you experience symptoms of Lyme disease makes combatting the disease easier. Still, finding and removing a tick as quickly as possible is the best protection against Lyme disease.
Curtis left us with some general Lyme disease prevention tips. Be tick cautious in early summer (May, June, and July), as this is when the nymphs are looking for hosts to attach to while growing into adulthood. Check your pets and yourself for ticks after being outside. Wear long sleeves and pants to keep ticks from latching on to your skin, and washing clothing at high temperatures will help remove ticks from clothing. Also, showering a couple hours after being outside could wash away any ticks you missed during your self-check. Curtis also gave tips on how you can maintain your yard to reduce the chance of ticks making a home in your front lawn.
If you find a tick in one of your self-checks, Curtis gave tips for proper tick removal. Using tweezers will help you get in close to the tick. She advised grabbing it as close to the head as possible. This will help prevent the stomach content going in through the bite. Pull steadily away from the skin, and there you go! Curtis ended the seminar with a Q & A session with attendees.
For more detailed information, watch the video of Curtis’ presentation available through the UMaine HealthyU YouTube channel.
Curtis also left HealthyU with some informational PDFs about Lyme disease. Click the links below to read or print the files.