It could be a bad summer for ticks. Here’s how to protect yourself from Lyme disease

The illness often goes undetected or misdiagnosed. Many symptoms happen within a few weeks or a month after the tick bite happens.

Rachel Yonkunas

Jun 5, 2024, 9:27 PM

Updated 6 days ago

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It is expected to be a bad summer for ticks. Doctors are already seeing an increase in tick bites and Lyme disease cases are rising across the state, specifically on Long Island.
One family is sharing their story to warn others about the signs and symptoms of the potentially debilitating illness.
Six-year-old Tessa Lamberson, of Setauket, loves to play outside. Two months ago, nature’s allure landed her at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.
“Tessa woke up one morning with her knee really, really bothering her,” said Robert Lamberson, Tessa’s father. “One knee was really blown up, like pretty swollen. We thought it might have been a break or something like that.”
As it turned out, Tessa had Lyme disease. The illness often goes undetected or misdiagnosed. Many symptoms happen within a few weeks or a month after the tick bite happens. For Lyme arthritis, which is what Tessa had, symptoms might not present until three or six months later.
Lyme disease is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected black-legged tick, also known as a deer tick. Doctors are warning families about an uptick in tick bites this season.
“We’re seeing more and more ticks biting and more and more Lyme disease,” said Dr. Andrew Handel, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Stony Brook Children's Hospital.
There were 19,052 Lyme disease cases reported statewide in 2023, excluding New York City, state Department of Health (DOH) data show.
Team12 Investigates found the state recently saw a 146% spike in Lyme disease cases in just one year.
According to NYS DOH data, there were 16,117 cases reported in 2022 and just 6,543 cases reported in 2021. The highest number of cases comes from Suffolk County.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show New York has the highest number of Lyme disease cases, not only in the tristate area, but in the entire country.
In 2022, New Jersey reported 5,897 cases and Connecticut reported 2,022, according to CDC data.
“It’s very common that over the summer, and warmer months, people will get bitten by a tick and not even notice it,” said Dr. Handel. “Months down the road, they can develop their first symptom of Lyme disease, which is Lyme arthritis.”
Tessa’s family is happy they caught the illness early. She was successfully treated with doxycycline and her dad said the disease hasn’t slowed her down.
“Just to be able to go through this and feel confident that she’s going to be okay, it takes a scary situation and turns it into something way more manageable,” said Lamberson.
Symptoms can vary since different kinds of ticks can transmit different diseases. Doctors recommend these preventative steps when tick exposure is likely:
When you go outside, be sure to wear mosquito or insect repellent. Be sure to apply insect or tick repellent containing 20-30% DEET.
Wear long pants and tuck the legs of the pants into your socks. This prevents ticks from crawling up onto your skin.
When you come back inside, remove your clothes and shoes. Then, place them in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill any ticks that might be on them.
Check your pets and your body, particularly in skin folds and hairy areas, for any ticks.
Since 2015, the Stony Brook Southampton Hospital Regional Tick-borne Diseases Resource Center has been operating a toll-free tick helpline (631) 726-Tick (8425).
Adults interested in accessing the new Stony Brook Southampton Hospital Regional Tick-Borne Disease Center in Hampton Bays, NY, the first and only dedicated tick clinic in the Northeast with a dedicated team of infectious disease specialists to treat children and adults for tick bites and diagnose tick-borne illnesses can schedule an appointment by calling (631) 725-2112. An appointment for a child, can be made at (631) 444-KIDS (5437).


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