Medically reviewed by Neka Miller, PhD on April 10, 2021. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
Lyme disease is a common bacterial infection that is caused by infected tick bites. While the early stage symptoms can be mild, untreated Lyme disease can progress to more serious problems in the brain, nerves, and heart.
The disease is thankfully easy to diagnose (with Everlywell’s Lyme Disease Test kit) and to treat (with antibiotics), but it’s important to know how to avoid Lyme disease in the first place.
Ticks are the primary transmitters of Lyme disease in humans, so protecting yourself from tick bites is the best way to prevent the disease. Lyme disease is caused by blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks. Most cases of this tick-borne illness occur in the upper Midwest and Northeast, and some infected ticks have been found in California, Oregon, and Washington. However, deer ticks have been found in every state except Hawaii.
Deer ticks make their home in wooded, grassy areas, particularly in moist, humid environments. The tick population also tends to be more active during the warmer months of spring and summer, but it’s not uncommon to find them during milder winters.
If you’re hiking, camping, gardening, or otherwise adventuring in outdoor spaces with tall brush, leaves, and vegetation, take extra care to avoid ticks. Cover exposed skin by wearing long sleeves, pants, and closed shoes, and stick to established trails instead of venturing into the brush.
Insect repellent is also effective at deterring ticks. Apply an EPA-registered repellent containing:
DEET Picaridin IR3535 Oil of lemon eucalyptus 2-undecanone Para-menthane-diol
Follow the product instructions and avoid applying to the hands, eyes, or mouth. For clothing, apply products containing 0.5% permethrin, which can stay protective through several washing cycles.
For further tick bite prevention, check your clothes and body for ticks after adventuring in wooded, grassy areas, even if that means your own yard. Search your entire body using a mirror to view all parts of your body. Ticks most often end up in hard-to-see areas, so take special care to check:
Under the arms Behind the knees In and around your ears Between your legs and groin All around your scalp
Showering immediately after coming in outdoors is a good idea. It gives you a chance to check your body unimpeded, and the shower itself can knock loose any ticks that haven’t yet attached. Some ticks can actually crawl around on your body for hours before attaching.
Check your pets for ticks as well. Pets can get Lyme disease, and they can carry ticks into your home.
Related: How to Know if You Have Lyme Disease
Removing an attached tick as soon as possible can help to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease. It can take 36 to 48 hours for an attached tick to transmit enough of the Lyme disease bacterium to cause an infection. To remove a tick:
Use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers to grab the tick at its head, as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Steadily pull upward, avoiding any sudden twisting motions, which can cause the mouth or part of the head to break off and stay stuck to your skin. If the mouthparts do break off in your skin, try to remove them with the tweezers, but don’t try to dig too deep. If you can’t remove the mouthparts easily, leave them alone and allow your skin to heal. Clean the tick bite area and your hands with soap and water to prevent infection.
Do not crush the tick in your fingers. Dispose of the tick properly by:
Placing it in a sealed bag or container Flushing it down the toilet Completely wrapping it in tape
Even if you don’t think you’ve been bitten by a tick, be on the lookout for early symptoms of the tick-borne disease, particularly in the summer and if you’ve been in a potential tick habitat. The most common symptom is an odd rash that may appear like a bull’s-eye pattern, as well as a fever and other flu-like symptoms
If you think you might have Lyme disease, getting tested is the best way to know sure. The Everlywell Lyme disease test offers a convenient means of determining your health in the comfort of your own home. If your results come back positive, we can connect you with a care coordinator to walk you through the next steps for a clinical diagnosis and treatment.
For more answers to questions about Lyme disease, such as “Is Lyme disease contagious” or “How is Lyme disease transmitted” check out our blog.