The bad news: Michigan's tick population is booming. Black-legged ticks--the bad ones, the ones that carry Lyme disease--are showing up on the Lower Peninsula's West Coast, from Berrien County toward the south to Traverse City County to the north. Others are closer to us: ticks have been found recently as far east as Ingham and Genesee.
To keep black-legged ticks away from your kids, you might:
- Avoid their habitats--they like game trails and bushy spots
- Do a thorough check after you get back from a hike--look under the arms, behind the knees and between the legs, in and around the ears, and especially in the hair
- Check clothes, shoes, packs and pets--some of which can be washed and tumble dried
- Shower your kids, and yourself, within two hours of being outdoors
- IF YOU DO FIND A TICK, there's a right way to remove it. Put tweezers near its head, and gently pull it off.
Symptoms of Lyme disease include fever and fatigue, headache, heart palpitations, pain or swelling in large joints, loss of muscle tone (Bell's palsy) in the face, and erythema migrans--or "bull's-eye" rash, with concentric rings of redness around the target bite. Most of those symptoms show up in the first few days or weeks; untreated, the infection can spread to the nervous system and heart.
The good news: Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a short course of antibiotics.