Lyme Disease

Originally published 08/08/2017

During the construction season, we work outside from early spring until late fall. One of the hazards of working outside is Lyme Disease. We’ve all heard about it on the news, but what is it?

Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by the bite of an infected tick. Rarely, if ever, fatal it can cause serious problems without proper and timely treatment. Generally, the symptoms include a rash and flu-like symptoms such as muscle aches, joint pains, lymph node swelling, neck stiffness, headaches, chills, fever and fatigue. If not caught and treated early, the symptoms can progress to severe fatigue, neck stiffness and aches, tingling or numbness in the arms/hands and legs/feet, and even facial paralysis.

How do you protect yourself?

  • Wear light-colored clothing to help spot the ticks more easily.
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants and tuck pant legs into socks or work boots.
  • Wear a hard hat or any type of hat that covers your head.
  • Use insect repellents containing DEET (Diethyl-meta-toulamide) on skin and clothes. Be careful not to spread the insect repellent on your face.
  • Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls.
  • Do a final, full-body tick check at the end of the day. Note: a shower and shampoo may help to dislodge crawling ticks but is only somewhat effective. Thoroughly inspect yourself after a shower.
  • Wash and dry your clothing at high temperatures to kill unseen ticks.

If you find a tick, what should you do? 

  • Don’t panic; not all ticks carry the bacteria. Using a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick by the head (not the body – you don’t want to squeeze the body). Pull firmly and steadily outward. Don’t twist the tick or use a hot match, alcohol, nail polish, petroleum jelly or other irritant on the tick. This could backfire.
  • Place the tick in a jar or vial with alcohol to kill it.
  • Clean the bite or wound with disinfectant.
  • Monitor the site of the bite for signs of a “bullseye rash” for one to two weeks, or the symptoms described above. If any of these symptoms occur, see a physician immediately. Again, don’t panic. Treatment with antibiotics will usually kill the bacteria.

Some commonly asked questions:

Do all ticks carry the Lyme Disease bacteria?
No, only the deer tick and its close relative, the Western black-legged tick are known to transmit the bacteria.

Is Indiana a high-risk state?
No, Indiana is a relatively low-risk state. Less than one person in 100,000 in Indiana will get Lyme Disease annually. Ohio and Missouri have a slightly higher risk than Indiana.

How do ticks get on a person?
They are found under leaf litter or on plant stems and blades of grass within three feet of the ground, especially at the edge of woodlands. Ticks will latch onto people as they brush by the tick, then it will climb until it reaches a protected or creased area of skin (often the back of a knee, groin, navel, armpit, ears or nape of the neck) and begin feeding.

Studies have shown that deer ticks begin transmitting Lyme Disease 36 to 48 hours after attachment. Therefore, if you remove a tick within 24 hours your chance of contracting the disease is greatly reduced.

References: Center for Disease Control, OSHA and the American Lyme Disease Foundation, Inc.

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