Tick Season Has Arrived: How to Prevent Disease


To celebrate the recent opening of Emerson Family Medicine, Maynard’s first family medicine practice, we asked Dr. Stephan Goupil, a primary care physician who sees patients of all ages — newborns through seniors — to share ways people can protect themselves from tick bites and tick-borne diseases this season.

Q: I know ticks are common in this area. What do I need to know about tick bites and my health?

A. This time of year, Massachusetts residents are susceptible to bites from ticks. The two most common ticks we have in Massachusetts are the dog tick and the deer tick. The deer tick, or black-legged tick, belongs to the species Ixodes. Bites from these ticks are more concerning than those from dog ticks. Black-legged ticks often carry microbes that can cause diseases such as anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis or Lyme disease.

Outdoor activities in or near wooded areas, even in your own yard, can put you at risk for a tick bite. These bites can occur at any time of year when the temperature is above freezing. In order to transmit disease-causing microorganisms, the tick must usually be attached for two to three days and will appear engorged.

The following are tips to prevent Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses:

  • Wear long pants tucked into socks or boots if you venture into wooded or leafy areas. Ticks tend to be found on the edges of wooded paths, so try to stay in the center of trails.
  • Apply insect repellent containing at least 20 percent DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 to exposed skin.
  • Use products that contain 0.5 percent permethrin on clothing. Permethrin may last for several washings on your clothing.
  • Key areas to check for ticks are between toes, the back of the knees, groin, underarms, neck, hairline, and behind the ears.
  • Pets can also bring ticks indoors. Run an adhesive lint roller over your pet’s coat to remove ticks after they spend time outdoors. Consult your veterinarian about tick prevention for your pet.
  • Familiarize yourself with the appearance of an engorged and non-engorged deer tick. Adult females and nymphs can both transmit Lyme.
  • If you find a tick, pull it out with a pair of tweezers; place the tweezers close to the skin and apply steady pressure. Do not use a hot match or any chemicals to remove the tick.
  • If the tick was engorged and may have been attached for greater than 36 hours, call your doctor’s office. You may be prescribed a prophylactic dose of antibiotics if you call within 72 hours of removing the tick.
  • Saving the tick may be helpful for your provider to identify it. Testing the tick for Lyme is technically possible but can be costly and not usually done.
  • See your doctor if you are unable to remove the tick yourself.
  • Approximately 80 percent of people with Lyme disease develop a “bull’s-eye” rash around the bite, usually seven to fourteen days later. Later symptoms of Lyme include fever, joint pain, headache and fatigue. Antibodies for Lyme are not detectable by a blood test until four to six weeks after the bite.
To make an appointment with Dr. Goupil, please contact Emerson Family Medicine of Maynard at 978-318-1870.