July 16, 2019

TickAs it is summer time in New Hampshire and ticks are all around us, I thought it was important to have a discussion about tick bite prevention.  I hope you noticed I said tick bite prevention and not Lyme disease prevention.  This is intentional.  I think we are at a time in NH that we need to step back and rethink our approach to ticks and Lyme disease.  Lyme disease is not the only disease spread by the blacklegged (deer) tick, so focusing on Lyme disease should be secondary to focusing on preventing tick bites. 

The Medical Society, in collaboration with the NH Division of Public Health Services, has organized a Tick-Borne Disease Advisory Council.  The goal of this advisory council is to develop a CME program for medical providers and a public education presentation to be delivered by medical personnel (working with Tick Free NH) on prevention of tick bites and tick-borne infections, including Lyme disease.

As medical professionals, especially primary care physicians, tick bite prevention should be a part of our annual visits with our patients.  We live in NH and I feel that we should assume that any deer tick we encounter has one or more of the tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease, so we need to ensure our patients are doing everything they can to prevent tick bites. We are surrounded by these ticks whenever we are out enjoying the best time of year in our state.  Ticks can live as long as 200 days without food or water so we need to be vigilant about doing tick checks everyday but especially when we are outside and deer ticks can be active year-round especially during a mild winter.  If ticks are found early and removed early there is significantly less chance that a tick-borne infection will be acquired. 

Prevention is the key:  using insect repellent that contains 20-30% DEET, wearing clothing that has been treated with permethrin, showering as soon as possible after coming indoors, doing daily tick checks on your body and putting clothes in the dryer on high heat for 1 hour to kill any remaining ticks are the key ways the CDC recommends protecting yourself from tick bites.  Let’s change our focus to prevention of tick bites.

Regards,

Tessa Lafortune-Greenberg, MD

Please send questions or comments to tlafortune187@outlook.com.