Lyme disease cases on the rise, here’s how to protect yourself

Is it just me, or is this a bad year for ticks?

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, cases of lyme disease are on the increase. While Southborough wasn’t on it’s list of cities and towns with the highest instances of lyme disease — Framingham, Natick, and Newton were — ticks and the disease they carry are still a concern in our community.

I haven’t seen any statistics to prove it’s true, but anecdotally at least, it seems the ticks are out in force this year. I’ve pulled several off my daughter in the past few weeks, and other moms have said they’ve done the same with their kids.

Woodward School earlier this month provided some information to parents on how to deal with ticks. I’ve included some of the info below, but you can see the complete document here (PDF).

How do I protect myself from tick bites?

  • Check yourself daily – favorite tick places include the legs, back of the knees, groin, armpit, and neck, along the hairline and behind the ears.
  • Wear long-sleeved light colored shirts and long pants tucked into your socks.
  • Stick to main pathways and the center of trails when hiking.
  • Use repellents that contain DEET on your clothes and exposed skin.

What should I do if I find a tick on myself?

  • Carefully remove it as soon as possible.
  • Use fine point tweezers to grip the mouthparts of the tick as close to the skin as possible.
  • Pull straight out with a steady gentle pressure, do not squeeze or twist.
  • Disinfect the bite site.
  • Do NOT apply kerosene, petroleum jelly, nail polish or a hot match tip to remove the tick.
  • Note the date and where on the body the tick was removed.
  • If you are unsure of the type of tick, save it for identification.
  • Notify your health care provider if you have been bitten by a deer tick or if you develop any unusual illness following a tick bite.

There’s also lots of good information on the Massachusetts Health and Human Services Tickborne Diseases website (, including how to reduce the chance of ticks in your yard.

(Photo posted to Flickr by s p e x)

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12 years ago

Ticks do seem to be worse this year than in the past. My husband found an easy and painless way to detach ticks. Rub around the tick in a circular motion. It gets the tick dizzy and it pops right out. I’ve had to do it a few times on my kids and dog this year and it’s so much easier than pulling with tweezers and there is not risk of the head not detaching. I’m pretty squeamish, so I find that if I place a napkin over it and do it, its easier since these ticks pop right off and you see their legs squirming.

On a side note, I always keep the ticks sealed in a ziploc bag for a few weeks just in case. Luckily, nothing has transpired from the bites.

living the dream
12 years ago

Great tip on holding onto them just in case. I never thought of that I am usually in a rush to flush them since they gross me out. Thanks, Rachel!

Kelly Roney
12 years ago

A cautionary data point: I just took a short walk – about 5 minutes – on the segment of the Sudbury Reservoir Trail that parallels White-Bagley Rd. I knew going in from the high grass that it would probably be tick central, though I was more worried about the poison ivy.

Afterward, I took 18 ticks off my shoes, socks, and calves. Only one was a deer tick nymph, but still…

I’m going upstairs to do a full check.

Earl E. Byrd
12 years ago

There are several good books about Lyme disease.

The most recent is a book by Pamela Weintraub called “Cure Unknown”.

Other good books are Denise Lang’s book “Coping with Lyme Disease; Polly Murray’s “The Widening Circle” (Polly Murray was the woman who discovered Lyme disease in Lyme Connecticut); and “SICK AND TIRED: How the U.S. Health Care System Fails Its Patients by Helene Jorgensen (

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