Here in New York State, we’re lucky to have access to beautiful landscapes and local parks that showcase a variety of natural wonders. Whether it’s hiking and biking on scenic trails or embarking on a camping trip, there is so much for your family to experience this summer. But as you get out and enjoy all that New York has to offer, it’s important to remember we share the outdoors with deer ticks that could carry Lyme disease. This season, remember to check yourself, your family members and your pets for ticks after spending time outside to ensure you and your loved ones remain safe and healthy.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that people and pets can contract from deer ticks, which thrive in woodsy environments but can also be present in our backyards. It’s a serious issue in New York, and in 2013, 95 percent of Lyme disease cases were reported from only 14 states, including ours.
The good news is a few simple steps can help you and your family avoid ticks and prevent infection. Ticks are most common in grassy or wooded areas and can attach to you, your clothing or your pet as you pass by. Choosing lightly colored long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks while outdoors will limit your risk of exposure and make it easier to see the black, sesame seed-sized ticks if they cling to you. You can also avoid ticks by keeping grass on your property short and sticking to the middle of walking paths. In addition, specialized tick repellents for people and pets provide extra protection.
Always be sure to check yourself, your family and your pets for ticks after every trip outdoors. If you do find a tick, don’t panic. Use tweezers or a specialized tick-removal tool to pull the tick away from your skin in a steady, upward motion. Be sure not to jerk or twist the body of the tick, and never try to burn or “unscrew” the tick, as this can increase your risk of infection. Once the tick has been removed, clean the bite area and wash your hands thoroughly.
The symptoms of Lyme disease vary, but can include a circular rash that grows over time, joint pain, fever, chills, fatigue, stiff neck, tingling or numbness of limbs or facial paralysis. If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one after spending time outdoors, contact your doctor right away. Lyme disease is easily treatable if caught early, but the effects can be severe when undiagnosed.
To help combat this problem, I helped pass a law creating a workgroup to research preventive measures that will help modernize the Department of Health’s treatment of infectious diseases – like Lyme disease – and minimize the harmful effects on our families (Ch. 483 of 2014). And I also helped pass a new law that will allow New York’s doctors to administer vital long-term antibiotic treatments to help victims of Lyme disease (Ch. 532 of 2014).