Ticks and the Threat of Lyme Disease
Did you ever think something smaller than a fingernail could make a grown person sick? Unfortunately for many workers in the United States, this is an all too real problem. Every summer, the tick population sees its annual population boom. With many people outside working or enjoying the weather, we also see the rise of diseases that ticks can transmit. We’ve got some tips to keep you safe and stay protected from ticks and the Lyme disease they can sometimes carry.
Who is at Risk?
- Anyone working near a wooded area
- Outdoor construction
- Outdoor employees in the Northeast
What is Lyme Disease?
According to the CDC, “Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia Burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected backlegged ticks.” Symptoms of the disease include, but are not limited to, fever, headache, fatigue, and skin rash.
The disease is primarily in the Northeast; however there has been a rise of reported cases in northern Illinois and Wisconsin (Lantos 2017). The infection is spread to humans by infected ticks that feed on human blood. This feeding process makes ticks very effective at spreading infection.
Image source: Center for Disease Control
Lyme disease has been around since the prehistoric times. In 2012 a 5,300-year-old mummy, Ötzi, was discovered to have genetic material from the bacterium responsible for the disease. In essence, Lyme is nothing new. However, it has been rapidly spreading since the early 2000s, as noted by the graph below.
Image source: Center for Disease Control
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Early symptoms include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes, as well as the “classic bullseye rash.” These symptoms can worsen into “severe headaches and neck stiffness, heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat, nerve pain and problems with short-term memory.”
Other late symptoms include arthritis and disabling neurological disorders, including:
- disorientation, confusion, and/or dizziness
- short-term memory loss
- inability to concentrate, finish sentences or follow conversations, and mental “fog” (Barbour)
A great resource to use to consider possible symptoms can be found with this online checklist.
Try to avoid wooded areas. If working in a wooded area or an area known to have a tick problem, stay on prebuilt paths as much as possible. Avoid foliage, as ticks are known to live there. Other safety considerations to avoid Lyme disease include:
- Use repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET such as insect repellent or this Safety Insect Repellent
- After returning indoors from a job site, make sure to clean yourself to wash off any ticks that may be already roaming on your body.
- Conduct a tick check across your body using a mirror to view all parts of your body. Use a friend to ensure a better check.
- Make sure to examine pets and equipment you bring on your work site. Ticks are known to latch onto equipment in order to find human hosts.
- Put clothes in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes. If the clothing is dry, this will kill the ticks.
- Make sure to cover up. Wear shoes, long pants tucked into socks, long-sleeve shirts, a hat, and gloves (Mayo Clinic).
Treatment of Lyme Disease
Should you find that a rash has formed from the location of a tick bite, or if you feel a combination of the symptoms listed above, contact your physician immediately.
If you’d like to find more information about this topic, be sure to look up the reference materials cited at the end of this article. Take the time to discuss the issue with your employees and loved ones as you venture outside for work or for play.
ORR Safety is a safety equipment distributor, not a medical research facility. We rely solely on statements from our suppliers and independent research groups regarding the efficacy of chemicals for the prevention of tick bites and no product will offer 100% protection from all ticks at all times. No product referenced in this article or sold on our site is meant to prevent, treat, or cure Lyme disease (or any disease) itself.
Barbour, A. (n.d.). Lyme Disease. Retrieved from http://www.aldf.com/lyme-disease/
CDC (2017). Lyme Disease. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/index.html
Lantos, P. M., Tsao, J., Nigrovic, L. E., Auwaerter, P. G., Fowler, V. G., Ruffin, F., . . . Hickling, G. (2017). Geographic Expansion of Lyme Disease in Michigan, 2000–2014. Retrieved June from https://academic.oup.com/ofid/article/doi/10.1093/ofid/ofw269/2871218/Geographic-Expansion-of-Lyme-Disease-in-Michigan
Lyme Disease. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/index.html
Lyme disease Prevention. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lyme-disease/basics/prevention/con-20019701
Lyme Disease Rash. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/lyme-disease-rash
Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lyme-disease/basics/prevention/con-20019701