There's no reason to panic, but adults and children alike should be protecting themselves this spring, for fear of contracting a potentially debilitating disease, earlier than usual this year.

The disease health officials are worried about in 2024 is Lyme disease, which is a bacterial infection caused by the bite of an infected deer tick. Untreated, the disease can cause a number of health problems. Patients treated with antibiotics in the early stage of the infection usually recover rapidly and completely.

Unfortunately, Lyme disease is expected to be on the rise in New York and around the country this year because of an abnormally warmer winter and early spring is allowing the tick population to grow rapidly, according to state health departments in the northeast. Deer ticks, most common in New York, attach themselves to humans and/or their clothing, and the bite - embedding itself under the skin - can transmit the disease, with chances of transmission increasing the longer the tick remains attached to the body.

Close Up Of An Adult Female An Adult Male Nymph And Larva Tick Is Shown June 15 2001
Photo Credit - Getty Images / Stringer

"Infected deer ticks live in shady, moist areas at ground level. They will cling to tall grass, brush and shrubs, usually no more than 18-24 inches off the ground. They also live in lawns and gardens, especially at the edges of woods and around old stone walls," according to the New York State Department of Health. Ticks become prevalent when temperatures reach above 40 degrees, which according to the National Weather Service, will be most of this week in New York.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

The symptoms people experience from Lyme disease can be anywhere from mild, to severe - even causing paralysis or death, according to the DOH.

The early symptoms of Lyme disease may be mild and easily missed. If you find a tick attached to your skin, remove the tick with tweezers (see tick removal instructions on page 6), and watch for the symptoms of Lyme disease. In 60-80% of cases the first symptom is a rash, known as erythema migrans, that:

  • Occurs at or near the site of the tick bite.
  • Is a "bulls-eye" circular patch or solid red patch that grows larger.
  • Appears between three days and one month after the tick bite.
  • Has a diameter of two to six inches.
  • Lasts for about three to five weeks.
  • May or may not be warm to the touch.
  • Is usually not painful or itchy.
  • Sometimes leads to multiple rashes.

Ticks will attach themselves anywhere including the thighs, groin, trunk, armpits and behind the ears. If you are infected, the rash may be found in one of these areas.

Around the time the rash appears, other symptoms, such as joint pain, chills, fever and fatigue can occur, but they may seem too mild to require medical attention. As Lyme disease progresses, severe fatigue, a stiff neck, tingling or numbness in the arms and legs, or facial paralysis can occur.

The most severe symptoms of Lyme disease may not appear until weeks, months or years after the tick bite. These can include severe headaches, painful arthritis, swelling of the joints, and heart and central nervous system problems.

A warning sign "Ticks" in the woods undergrowth

What's the Best Way to Protect Against Lyme disease?

Deer ticks live in shady, moist areas at ground level. They will cling to tall grass, brush and shrubs, usually no more than 18-24 inches off the ground. They also live in lawns and gardens, especially at the edges of woods and around old stone walls, according to DOH.

Deer ticks cannot jump or fly, and do not drop onto passing people or animals. They get on humans and animals only by direct contact. Once a tick gets on the skin, it generally climbs upward until it reaches a protected area.

In tick-infested areas, your best protection is to avoid contact with soil, leaf litter and vegetation. However, if you garden, hike, camp, hunt, work or otherwise spend time in the outdoors, you can still protect yourself:

•Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily.

•Wear enclosed shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and shirt into pants.

•Check clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors.

•Consider using insect repellent.

•Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails. Walk in the center of trails. Avoid dense woods and bushy areas.

•Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls.

•Keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening.

•Bathe or shower as soon as possible after going indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that may be on you.

•Do a final, full-body tick check at the end of the day (also check children and pets), and remove ticks promptly.

8 Types of Ticks Biting in New York This Season

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Gallery Credit: Credit - Polly McAdams

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Tips To Prevent Ticks

You do not want to mess with ticks. Keep them as far away from you as possible. Now, that doesn't mean don't ever go outside! That would be ridiculous. Here are some tips to help prevent you from getting bit by a tick and risking Lyme Disease. Follow these Tick Tips to keep you, your loved ones, and your fur babies safe this summer!

Gallery Credit: Cort Freeman


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