Ticks and Lyme Disease
Our health care providers can assist with tick removal and questions you may have about Lyme Disease. Call (603) 862-2856 or make an appointment online. This service is available to all UNH students, employees and dependents of employees who are over the age of 18.
About Lyme Disease
Lyme disease can affect people of any age. Persons who spend time in wooded or grassy areas are at greater risk of disease because of the increased exposure to ticks.
- Lyme disease (LD) is an infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of bacterium called a spirochete (pronounced spy-ro-keet) that is carried by deer ticks;
- An infected tick can transmit the spirochete to the humans and animals it bites;
- Untreated, the bacterium travels through the bloodstream, establishes itself in various body tissues, and can cause a number of symptoms, some of which can be severe;
- LD manifests itself as a multisystem inflammatory disease that affects the skin in its early, localized stage, and spreads to the joints, nervous system and, to a lesser extent, other organ systems in its later stages;
- If diagnosed and treated early with antibiotics, LD is almost always readily cured;
- Generally, LD in its later stages can also be treated effectively, but because the rate of disease progression and individual response to treatment varies from one patient to the next, some patients may have symptoms that linger for months or even years following treatment. In rare instances, LD causes permanent damage;
- An infected tick normally cannot begin transmitting the spirochete until it has been attached to its host about 36-48 hours; the best line of defense against LD, therefore, is to examine yourself at least once daily and remove any ticks before they become engorged (swollen) with blood;
- Generally, if you discover a deer tick attached to your skin that has not yet become engorged, it has not been there long enough to transmit the LD spirochete. Nevertheless, it is advisable to be alert in case any symptoms do appear; a red rash (especially surrounding the tick bite), flu-like symptoms, or joint pains in the first month following any deer tick bite could signal the onset of LD.
Ticks Like 3 Things
1. Woody Areas
- Tall grassy places, such as along the side of roads or surrounding some beaches also may be tick-infested
- In New Hampshire, people may encounter ticks in their own backyards
2. Warm Weather
- Ticks normally feed from April to October; the nymphs are most active between May and August
- Adult ticks can remain active well into the winter if the winter is mild
- The nymphs and adult ticks wait on low vegetation in wooded areas or grasslands and can attach themselves to anything that brushes by them
- Ticks do not not fly or jump
Ick! That's a Tick!?
- The deer tick is much smaller than the dog tick or wood tick, although it may be difficult to distinguish between the two
- The flat, eight legged adults are less than one-tenth of an inch
- The immature ticks (called nymphs) are about the size of a poppy seed
- The male is black and the female is dark red and black
- Engorged with blood they are somewhat larger (3 times their original size) and have a bluish cast to them
Ick! It Attached! Now What?
- Use a pair of fine tweezers NOT your bare fingers, the bacteria from a crushed tick may be able to penetrate through the skin
- Grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible, close to the tick’s mouth, and gently pull it off
- Try to make sure that the mouth parts do not remain in the skin. If they do, they should fall out by themselves in a few days. If the whole head remains in, call your health care provider.
- Thoroughly clean your hands and the bite area by applying rubbing alcohol
- Put the tick into a jar. Save the tick, your health care provider may want to see it
Don’t try to use gasoline, petroleum jelly, kerosene, or a hot match to remove the tick. These have not been shown to be effective and may damage your skin or hair. This may cause the tick to release the bacteria into your skin.
Prevent Exposure to Ticks
- Wear long sleeve, light-colored, tightly woven fabrics (it may be easier to see ticks on lighter clothing)
- Tuck your shirt into your pants and the pants into your socks, shoes, or boots
- Wear a hat or pull back long hair
- When walking in the woods or grassy fields, try to stay near the center of trails
- Apply tick repellents with DEET (N,N-diethylmetatoluamide) to your clothing, shoes and socks
- Be careful about spraying the repellent on your bare skin and using sprays excessively
- Check yourself occasionally for ticks. On returning from a trip or each night, check yourself, children, and pets for ticks. Check hair, body folds, ears, underarms, back, behind knees, etc.
- Shower and shampoo
- Check clothes and wash them immediately in order to remove ticks that may be hidden in creases
- Keep lawns mowed and brush trimmed as short as possible
Treating Lyme Disease
Signs and Symptoms
- Within days to weeks following a tick bite, the symptoms are: red “bulls eye” rash, tiredness, fever, headache, stiff neck, muscle aches, and joint pain
- If untreated for weeks to months, arthritis can begin to develop. Symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and swelling
- The easiest way for Lyme disease to be correctly diagnosed, is for a health care provider to see the rash
- In the absence of the rash, early diagnosis may be difficult
- Keeping a history of the clinical symptoms and getting a blood test 4-6 weeks after the onset of infection may be of help to health care provider in his/her diagnosis of LD
- Antibiotic treatment for 3-4 weeks is generally effective in early disease
- Later disease, particularly with neurologic manifestations, may require treatment with intravenous antibiotic for 4 weeks or more, depending on disease severity
- In later disease, treatment failures may occur and retreatment may be necessary