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What's My Lyme Disease Risk?

Lee este articuloIs the thought of Lyme disease making you feel you'd be safer in the comfort of your room rather than the great outdoors? Before you head out for a summer-long supply of video games, here's some information to help you estimate if you are at risk of getting Lyme disease.

Location

Which of these infections do you worry about most?

More than 24,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease were reported in 2011, making it the leading tick-borne (carried by ticks) disease in the United States. Experts think that the number of Lyme disease cases may be even higher, though, because sometimes people don't know that they have it.

Nearly all cases of Lyme disease (96%) in the United States happen in the Northeast, upper Midwest, and Pacific coastal states. Some cases of Lyme disease have also been reported in other states, but the states that have been the hardest hit are:

Some cases have also been reported in parts of Canada as well as in northern and southern Europe and even in Asia.

Outdoor Activities and Pets

Besides living in one of these areas, other factors that might increase your Lyme disease risk include:

Safety Tips

Lyme Disease

So you got a job as a landscaper this summer and you're planning a big camping trip. Does that mean Lyme disease is in your future? No. But it's still a good idea to take these precautions to protect yourself:

If you use insect repellents containing DEET, follow the recommendations on the product's label and don't overapply it. (Using more product than you need won't increase your protection.)

Place DEET on shirt collars and sleeves and pants cuffs, and only use it directly on exposed areas of skin. Be sure to wash it off when you go back indoors. Don't spray aerosol or pump products containing DEET directly onto your face; instead, spray it on your hands and rub it into your face.

Removing a Tick

You should know how to remove a tick just in case one lands on you or a friend.

First, don't panic. Your risk of developing Lyme disease after being bitten by a tick is low. Only 1% to 3% of people who are bitten by a tick are at risk for getting the disease. It takes at least 24-48 hours for the tick to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. To be safe, though, you'll want to remove the tick as soon as possible.

If you find a tick:

bulls eye rash after tick removal illustration

One note of caution: don't use "folk remedies" like petroleum jelly or a lit match to kill a tick. They don't get the tick off your skin quickly enough, and may just cause the insect to burrow deeper into your skin.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: July 2013

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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