LiveSmart: Spending Time Outdoors this Summer? Be Alert for Ticks

[This article was peer reviewed/edited by Dr. Christopher Guzda, DO, director of emergency medicine at Samaritan Hospital – Albany Memorial Campus.]

Residents of our area know about the threat of Lyme disease. Lyme is still the most common tick-borne illness that people could come into contact with when spending time outside. In recent years, however, cases of the Powassan virus, anaplasmosis and babesiosis have all appeared in the Capital Region.

According the New York State Department of Health, there were more than 8,000 new cases of Lyme reported in the state in 2019. Deer ticks, which live in shady, moist areas at ground level, range in size from a poppy seed to a small pea. They generally hang out alone, waiting for a warm-blooded creature – like a mouse, deer or human – to walk by and brush against them so they can attach themselves.

If they remain attached for at least 36 hours, symptoms may appear within another three to 30 days (average 10). Early symptoms include chills and fever, headache, stiff neck, muscle and joint pain, heart palpitations or swollen glands.

Left untreated, severe cases may involve strong headaches, painful arthritis, swelling of the joints and problems with the heart and central nervous systems.

To prevent infection, create a “tick-free zone” in your yard by keeping the lawn mowed and removing brush and weeds. When in wooded areas, wear light-colored clothing to make ticks easy to spot, and tuck your shirt into pants and pants into socks or boots. Inspect yourself every couple hours.

Once back inside, do a full-body tick check. If you spot one, grasp it with tweezers near the mouth area and pull it away from the skin. Do NOT use folk remedies such as petroleum jelly or lighted matches or cigarettes. Disinfect the site with soap and water.

If there is an infection, a red rash or bulls eye about two to three inches in diameter appears at the site in the majority of cases. Doctors can prescribe oral antibiotics that cure most cases within 10 to 28 days.

Remember, you don’t have to be in the deepest woods to pick up a tick. Anyone outdoors in our region, whether you are a hiker, gardener, soccer player, golfer, or just someone who likes to stroll barefoot in the grass, can be a target of these tiny invaders. If you, your kids or pets are spending time outside, you should be conducting daily tick checks.

When every second counts, St. Peter’s Health Partners has top-quality emergency departments and urgent care centers all across the Capital Region. Our emergency departments in Albany and Troy are open 24 hours, seven days a week, offering a wide range of services for emergency care with highly trained staff, diagnostic testing and access to specialists. The entire team at St. Peter’s Health Partners is here to support you and your family when you need us most.

For more information, visit us at

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