Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose and even trickier to treat. In agriculture, workers and animals are outdoors for the majority of the day, making tick bite prevention paramount in ensuring good health for all. On an AgriSafe Learning Lab webinar, Program Coordinator Abigail Kahrs shared concrete ways to prevent and address infections.

Start by dressing for the elements every day, she said. Wear long sleeves, full-length pants, and closed-toed shoes. Further, pull back long hair and avoid wearing dark colors — ticks are less likely to attach to a host with a bright red outer layer than a familiar-seeming brown one.

Workers should also research what kind of insect repellant will be most effective for their area by visiting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s website. And, as a final prevention measure, Kahrs suggested checking oneself daily once in the house for signs of ticks or tick bites.

One way to do an easy “check” is to take a shower immediately after being outside. One should thoroughly examine all areas of their body, including behind the knees, into the hairline, inside the inner thighs and the belly button, and in other such easy-to-miss places for signs of the insect. Smaller than a dime at their largest, deer ticks (those carrying Lyme) can look like freckles.

“I always tell people to be vigilant in their checking, even if it takes a few extra minutes at the end of the day,” Kahrs said. “And since Lyme-bearing ticks can be found in almost every region of the country, in nearly every season, it’s important to conduct checks year round.”

Should you find a tick that is loose on the body or on clothing, dispose of it by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet, Kahrs said. If it has already embedded itself within the skin, the best way to remove it is to locate finely tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface and to the tick’s head as possible, and pull upward with steady, even pressure. Do not use a flame, nail polish, or alcohol — all of which have circulated as methods of removal. Tweezers ensure an accurate grip and a thorough removal of the entire tick. Post-removal, dispose of the tick via one of the ways listed above, and wash hands and skin thoroughly.

Unfortunately, lyme disease is so varied in its symptoms and time lines that it can be difficult to diagnose and treat. Because of its commonalities shared with the flu, mononucleosis, and COVID-19 viruses, lyme is considered to be “the great imitator.” Still, a “classic” target-shaped rash as well as symptoms such as fever, joint pain, headaches, and lymph nodes in the neck are possible signs of the bacteria having made its way into a host’s bloodstream.

If a farm worker has been bitten or shows signs of being ill — even if there is doubt as to what the illness may be — Kahrs advised seeking advice from a medical professional.

For more information on how to prevent tick bites or spot infections, view the webinar and find resources at

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2024
June 10, 2024
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