The Rhode Island Department of Health and Department of Environmental Management has created a campaign, Tick Free Rhode Island, to urge residents to follow precautions to avoid direct contact with ticks that can transmit Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected tick. An infected tick usually needs to be attached to a person for at least 24 hours to transmit Lyme disease. The ticks that carry Lyme disease can be found in parks, playgrounds and backyards, but they are most common in very grassy areas and the woods. Ticks can be as small as a poppy seed.

The campaign highlights the three keys to tick safety: repel, check and remove.

To repel ticks, avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaves, spray clothing with permethrin, wear light-colored long pants and long-sleeve shirts when outside and tuck pants into socks so ticks do not crawl under clothes.

To check people and pets for ticks, take a shower as soon as coming inside after being in grassy or wooded areas, do a full-body tick check using a mirror; parents should check children for ticks, paying special attention to the area in and around the ears, in the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and in hair and check pets for ticks as they can bring ticks into the home.

To remove ticks found on a person or pet, use a set of tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull straight up. If removing tick with fingers, use a tissue or rubber gloves.

Most people who get Lyme disease get a rash somewhere on their body, though it may not appear until long after the tick bite. People with Lyme disease will develop a rash 70 to 80% of the time. At first, the rash looks like a red circle, but as the circle gets bigger, the middle changes color and seems to clear, so the rash looks like a target bull's-eye.

Other symptoms include headaches, fever, body aches and fatigue. Over time, there could be swelling and pain in joints and a stiff, sore neck; or people will become forgetful or have trouble paying attention. A few people may even develop heart problems.

The campaign features three animated videos showing how to repel both ticks and mosquitoes, how to check for ticks, and how to properly remove a tick from the skin. The campaign’s also includes an online publication, Rhode Island Tick Detective Workbook for Kids, available at health.ri.gov/publications/books/TFRIKidsWorkbook.pdf. To view the videos, and for more information on Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, visit health.ri.gov/ticks.

— Sun staff

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