Treatment and Prevention
Avoid Tick Habitats
The ticks that can transmit Lyme disease ( Ixodes scapularis, or Blacklegged tick) prefer habitats that are shaded or wooded. Typically deciduous trees, brushy undergrowth, and abundant leaf-litter characterize these habitats. Ticks can also be found in grassy or brush dominated areas as well. Deer and rodent hosts are normally abundant in these areas, and must be present to maintain the cycle of Lyme disease in the wildlife population. In southwest Michigan, blacklegged ticks have been found in habitats characterized by sandy soil, oak or maple dominated tree cover, and an abundance of rodents and white-tailed deer. Areas along the coast of Lake Michigan are characteristic of good tick habitat. In northern Michigan (Menominee County, UP), the ticks can be found in similar habitats, which may also include mixed cover (deciduous/coniferous).
Whenever possible, avoid entering areas that are likely to be infested with ticks, particularly in spring and summer when nymphal ticks are abundant. Information on the distribution of ticks in Michigan is available in the ‘History and Distribution' portion of the website, and in the ‘Testing Tables and Maps'section.
Use Personal Protective Measures
If you are going to be in areas that may be tick infested, there are several ways you can protect yourself.
- Wear light colored clothing so ticks can be spotted more easily, and removed before attachment
- Wearing long sleeved shirts and pants tucked into socks or boot tops can be helpful in keeping ticks from reaching your skin
- Ticks are usually located close to the ground, so boots or shoes and not sandals, are recommended
- Applying insect repellants such as DEET (n,n-diethyl-m toluamide) to clothes and exposed skin, and applying Permethrin (which kills ticks on contact) to clothes can reduce the risk of tick attachment
- DEET can be used safely on children and adults, but should be applied according to label guidelines.
The transmission of B. burgdorferi (the bacteria that causes Lyme disease) from an infected tick is unlikely to occur before 36 hours of tick attachment. For this reason, daily checks for ticks and promptly removing any attached tick that you find will help prevent infection. Embedded ticks should be removed using fine-tipped tweezers. DO NOT use petroleum jelly, a hot match, nail polish, or other products. Grasp the tick firmly and as closely to the skin as possible. With a steady motion, pull the tick's body away from the skin. The tick's mouthparts may remain in the skin, but do not be alarmed. The bacteria that cause Lyme disease are contained in the tick's midgut or salivary glands. Cleanse the area with an antiseptic. Citizens interested in the identification and possible testing of ticks can use our 'Tick Identification and Testing' information page to find out how to receive these services.
Taking Preventative Antibiotics After a Tick Bite
The relative cost-effectiveness of post-exposure treatment of tick bites to avoid Lyme disease in endemic areas (areas where the disease is known to occur regularly) is dependent on the probability of B. burgdorferi infection after a tick bite. In most circumstances, treating persons who only have a tick bite is not recommended. Individuals who are bitten by a Black-legged tick should remove the tick promptly, and may wish to consult with their health care provider. Persons should promptly seek medical attention if they develop any signs and symptoms of early Lyme disease. The early diagnosis and proper antibiotic treatment of Lyme disease are important strategies to avoid the costs and complications of infection and late-stage illness.
Strategies to Reduce Tick Abundance
The number of ticks in endemic residential areas may be reduced by removing leaf litter, brush- and wood-piles around houses and at the edges of yards, and by clearing trees and brush to admit more sunlight and reduce the amount of suitable habitat for deer, rodents, and ticks. Tick populations have also been effectively suppressed through the application of pesticides to residential properties. Community-based interventions to reduce deer populations or to kill ticks on deer and rodents have not been extensively implemented, but may be effective in reducing the community-wide risk of Lyme disease. New approaches such as deer feeding stations equipped with pesticide applicators to kill ticks on deer, and baited devices to kill ticks on rodents, are currently under evaluation.
Adapted from CDC bulletin - Lyme Disease Prevention and Control - www.cdc.gov