Lyme Disease and Pregnancy: Tick Safety Tips for Expectant and New Moms

Warmer weather is the best! There’s sunshine and outdoor activities, but also ticks. Tick bites are no fun, pregnant or not. Unfortunately, we live in an area where infected ticks are common; Lyme disease is more prevalent in the northeastern region of the United States. The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) says that ticks can be active any time the temperature is above freezing.

The best strategy for tick safety and Lyme disease? Prevention. Lyme disease is caused by bacteria transmitted by the deer tick. Ticks cannot jump or fly, so they land on humans or animals by direct contact only. When the weather is so nice, it is hard to avoid the outdoors, but you can still protect yourself and enjoy the season. The NYSDOH says to wear light-colored clothing to spot ticks easily. Check your clothes and exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors and once you’re back indoors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says ticks usually hide in areas behind the knees, in the hair, under armpits and in the groin. Follow these same best practices with your child.

Pregnant and new moms often have three questions about insect repellent. The first is “Is it safe to use insect repellent while pregnant?” Yes – the CDC recommends using a repellent that contains 20 – 30% DEET. The second question is “Is it safe to use insect repellent while breastfeeding?” Yes – you can use any Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. To make it easier, the EPA has a search tool to help find a repellent product right for you. The third question is “Is it safe to use insect repellent on my baby?” Yes – but not on any babies younger than two months. Moms, make sure you apply (and remember to reapply) the repellent for your child, and only use a small amount.

If you find a tick, the NYSDOH says to remove it using tweezers and pull in a steady, upward motion. They also give a few “don’ts” regarding tick removal. Tick bites usually cause a bull’s eye rash on the skin. Keep an eye on the size of the bite and contact your doctor. Other common symptoms of Lyme’s include rash, fever, chills, exhaustion, joint and muscle pain or facial paralysis. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms. Untreated Lyme disease can have harmful long-term effects on you and could affect your unborn child.

When you visit your doctor, they may give you a blood test to determine if you have Lyme disease. Treatment usually involves antibiotics that are determined safe for pregnant women. Good news, the CDC says that no life-threatening effects on a fetus have been found in cases where a mother receives appropriate treatment for Lyme disease. Even more good news, it cannot be transmitted from breast milk.

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