Sometimes going to work can feel like a struggle. But chances are the work you do isn’t necessarily dangerous. If you sit behind a desk, your highest risk might be carpal tunnel syndrome or back strain. But what if your job has you out in nature all day? Then you actually might be at risk of developing Lyme disease if you work in an environment where ticks are present. So, if you’re wondering which jobs have the highest incidence of Lyme disease, here’s a rundown of some of the high tick-risk jobs out there (as well as some suggestions on how to protect yourself from getting bitten by ticks).
Which jobs put you at risk of tick bites?
There are some professions that will put you in close contact with ticks, leading to the possibility that you can get bitten by one and potentially contract Lyme disease. Here’s a list of some of the most common tick-risk jobs.
- Construction – Construction workers are at risk because they’re in tick environments when they’re out in the field building homes or businesses.
- Landscaping – Landscapers or gardeners work in areas with overgrown grass or piles of leaves, which can be hiding spots for ticks.
- Forestry – Individuals who work in forestry are often in charge of brush clearing, and brush is typically a prime location for ticks to hang out. Wooded forest areas also attract ticks (especially if there’s wildlife nearby).
- Land surveying – Because land surveyors can be out in nature, it’s possible for them to come across tick habitats or areas where wildlife can be carriers for ticks.
- Farming – There aren’t too many other jobs that require as much time spent outdoors as farming. Coming across parts of their land that are overgrown with brush could mean farmers might be bitten by ticks.
- Rail work – It’s possible for ticks to be present near rail tracks. Working near this environment could put rail employees near tick habitats.
- Oil field work – Oil field workers spend a great deal of time outdoors in the elements, potentially near areas where ticks are present.
- Utility line work – Utility line workers might find themselves near piles of leaves or brush where ticks could be hiding.
- Park or wildlife management – Because animals such as deer and mice are also carriers for ticks, parks or wooded areas are hotspots, especially when straying from a marked path.
So, if anyone asks which jobs put you at risk of contracting Lyme disease, any of the ones listed above are common culprits. Any time you’re near a location where ticks could be present, you’re at risk of contracting Lyme disease or other co-infections.
What can you do to prevent getting bitten by a tick?
There are a number of steps you can take to try to minimise your risk of getting bitten (even if you work in a high tick-risk job).
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long trousers, socks and a hat (if you are required to wear a uniform, speak to your employer about safer options). Make sure these items are light in colour so you can better spot ticks on your body.
- Use permethrin on your clothing as a tick repellent and use a safe insect repellent on your skin. Be sure to follow the application instructions on the items so that you’re reapplying as often as you should be.
- Try to avoid areas that you know are dangerous (leaf litter, overgrown grass, etc.) if possible.
- Check your skin and clothes for ticks often (especially hard-to-see areas like your scalp, underarms, and behind your knees). Also, take a shower as soon as possible after working outdoors to help wash off any ticks that might have attached to your skin.
What should you do if you’ve been bitten by a tick?
The first thing you should do is remove the tick immediately. Start by cleaning the area around the tick bite with rubbing alcohol. Then use a sharp pair of tweezers and, getting as close as possible, try to grab the tick’s head. This can sometimes be challenging since ticks can be as small as poppy seeds, so take your time. Then pull up, slowly and firmly, making sure not to twist. After you’ve removed the tick, clean the bite area again with rubbing alcohol.
After you’ve removed the tick, you have the option of heading to your doctor. They might want to give you a tick prophylactic, such as a single dose of doxycycline; this is an antibiotic that might be able to reduce your risk of getting Lyme. There’s also the option of sending the tick into a lab for testing to see if it was a carrier for Lyme or other co-infections. You should also be on the lookout for any potential acute symptoms of Lyme disease. These can include (but are not limited to):
- A red bullseye rash at the location of the bite
- Joint or muscle pain
- Extreme fatigue
- Flu-like symptoms
- Changes in mood or sleep
It’s generally a good idea to get checked out by a doctor even if you don’t think you have Lyme disease, just to be on the safe side.
Even if you’re employed in one of the above high tick-risk jobs, you can still take steps to protect yourself. Stay aware of your surroundings in order to note what kinds of environments you’re in throughout the day, and make sure to do thorough checks of your body as soon as you can when you’re done working. Then take any appropriate steps to remove ticks or follow up with your doctor if you think you’ve been bitten. Taking these precautions can help you stay safe at work.