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Ditch the ticks this summer: Protect your family from Lyme disease

Lyme disease is transmitted to people through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. About 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year. (DoD photo) Lyme disease is transmitted to people through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. About 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year. (DoD photo)

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Do you know where ticks are most likely to be and how to protect yourself? Summer days means more time spent outdoors. And being outside, especially in warmer weather, comes with an increased risk of encountering a tick and getting a tick-born disease like Lyme disease. If you or a family member get a tick bite and Lyme disease symptoms are present, TRICARE covers testing and treatment of the disease.

Lyme disease is transmitted to people through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. About 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year. Lyme disease is most common in the U.S. Most infections occur in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, and upper Midwest, with pockets of reduced risk along the west coast. You can also find Lyme disease in “forested areas of Asia, north-western, central, and eastern Europe,” says the World Health Organization.

You and your family can take several steps to help reduce exposure to ticks and possible Lyme disease:

  • Protect yourself from ticks: A little protection goes a long way. Wear a hat, long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and socks when outdoors, especially in grassy, brushy, and wooded areas as these are the most common places for ticks to live.
  • Use insect repellent: Use an Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellent. Follow product label instructions for safe use.
  • Avoid contact with ticks: When hiking, walk in the center of trails and avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
  • After being outdoors, check yourself for ticks immediately: If you spend the day outside in a wooded area or in your own backyard, check your clothing and body for ticks. Key parts of the body to check include under the arms, inside the belly button, back of the knees, and in and around the hair.
  • Shower soon after being outdoors: Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it’s a good chance to do a tick check. According to CDC, “Showering within two hours of coming indoors has shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tick-borne diseases.”
  • Learn the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease: The CDC recommends you seek medical attention if you observe any Lyme disease symptoms, and have noticed a tick bite, live in an area known for Lyme disease, or have recently traveled to an area where the disease occurs.

Lyme disease is treatable. A diagnosis requires a positive blood test. Your TRICARE benefit covers this test if ordered by a TRICARE-authorized provider. If diagnosed early, your doctor may treat Lyme disease with a standard round of antibiotics covered by your benefit when medically necessary. If Lyme disease is untreated, you may need more intensive courses of medication in the future.

This summer, learn about the risks of bug-borne diseases and preventive measures to follow to take command of your health. To get started, check out Bug Week from the Military Health System.

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