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Watch out for Lyme disease!

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

Blacklegged (deer) ticks.  Top row: adult male and female.
Bottom row: immature nymphs.  Their small size, especially the
nymphs, makes it more difficult to see them and more likely to be
exposed to Lyme disease. Photo: Jim Occi, Bug Pics,
Although you can encounter blacklegged ticks (also known as deer ticks) nearly any month of the year, June and July are the times of highest risk for becoming infected with Lyme disease. That is because summer is when the immature nymphs are active.

 Because of their very small size, it is easier to be bitten and not know it.
Learn about ticks--where they live and the symptoms of Lyme disease. Just click on "Read more."

Where do ticks live?

We are in full summer mode, so we are commonly hiking, camping, and doing other outdoor activities that puts us close to where ticks live. Blacklegged ticks are most common in the underbrush of hardwood forests and in fields. Although Lyme disease can occur in many areas of Minnesota, it is most common in the east central, north central and southeast areas of the state.

Protect yourself from ticks

If you are going to be out in a known tick habitat, take precautions to protect yourself from blacklegged ticks.

* Stay on trails and when possible avoid walking into brushy, grassy areas where ticks are more common.

* Wear long, light colored pants so ticks are easier to detect. For additional protection, tuck your pants into your socks.

* Use repellents to help keep the ticks off of you: Use Deet on clothes and skin but apply products containing permethrin just to clothing.

* Do a tick check when you return from the outdoors. They are small and can be easily overlooked so look carefully! Be sure to look in out of the way places, like behind ears or behind knees.

If you do find a tick, especially if it has been biting, get it positively identified. While blacklegged (deer) ticks can transmit Lyme and other diseases, American dog ticks are not an important disease vectors.

Remember that a blacklegged tick needs to be biting to be able to transmit disease. In fact, it needs to be attached for 24 – 48 hours before it can transmit Lyme disease (the amount time varies for other diseases). Even if you are bitten, not every tick is infected with disease.

Watch for these symptoms

A common symptom of Lyme disease, the bullseye rash
(technically called erythema migrans, EM).  Credit: Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
One of the most common symptoms of Lyme disease is a red bulls-eye rash. This occurs in 70-80% of cases. This rash is usually seen 3-30 days after a tick bite. People with Lyme disease may also initially experience fever, headache, and muscle aches.

If you believe you may have Lyme disease, see a physician. When caught early, Lyme disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics.

For more information, see Ticks and their control and Tick-borne diseases in Minnesota.

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