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Despite long winter, tick season starts early

Wednesday - 4/16/2014, 1:16pm  ET

Tick512.jpg
Tick season starts as soon as the ground thaws, and that means humans are at risk now for tick-related illnesses. (AP)

Preventing Lyme disease

Shady Grove Adventist Hospital's Dr. Wayne Meyer on tick season.

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WASHINGTON -- Despite the mid-April cold snap, tick season is beginning around the D.C. metro area and that means it brings a risk for Lyme disease, according to a local doctor.

Ticks can be active as soon as the ground thaws -- long before summer, says Dr. Wayne Meyer, doctor of internal medicine at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital.

Ticks can carry a variety of infections, including Lyme disease. Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics, but it can cause long-term health problems even with treatment, Meyer says.

It's fairly uncommon for a tick to transmit Lyme disease if it has been on a person or animal less than 72 hours, he says.

"Most Lyme disease occurs when you never see the tick," Meyer says, because ticks fall off after four or five days.

Meyer offers tips that help protect people from ticks:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.

  • Pre-treat clothing with a permethrin repellent spray and use Deet as a bug repellent on skin.

  • Take a shower or bath after coming inside. Doing so can wash away ticks or allow you to find ticks that have latched on.

Signs of Lyme disease include a circular or triangular rash near the bite site, fever, headaches, a stiff neck, body aches and tiredness. Some people develop arthritis-like symptoms, with swollen and painful joints.

Read more about Lyme disease on the Mayo Clinic website.

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