2017: A High Risk Year For Lyme Disease
The mild winter, wet spring, and a surge in the mice population have combined to produce the perfect conditions for an explosion of new cases of Lyme disease. Knowing how to protect yourself and your family members is key to avoiding this devastating disease.
Where The Threat Can Be Found
The ticks that carry Lyme disease and other tick borne illnesses are often found on mice, deer, and other animals - including your pets. The natural habitats of these animals are no longer limited to just the woods or meadows, but now include your own backyard, especially in stonewalls and woodpiles. Moreover, ticks like moist environments, like piles of leaves or grass. Whenever you spend time outdoors - be it to mow your lawn, do some gardening or just relax, take precautions.
How You Can Protect Yourself
Protecting yourself involves reducing the threat in your own backyard and wearing bodily protection. Here's a list of the most important steps to take:
Make your yard unwelcoming to animals that carry ticks by planting undesirable plants, using deer repellent, and moving woodpiles away from areas you use regularly.
Minimize the chance of having ticks in your yard by keeping your lawn cut short and bushes pruned. Organic insecticides are also available to use on areas where people are most likely to come into contact with ticks - namely, the perimeter of your yard.
Whenever you go outdoors, be it to relax your yard or take a hike in the woods, wear light-colored, long-sleeved clothing with your pant legs tucked in to your socks.
Use an effective tick-repellent spray.
Check yourself EVERY DAY for ticks. Pay special attention to your head, behind your ears, your armpits and groin area.
Protect yourself & your pets by checking them daily for ticks and using tick prevention on them.
What To Do If You've Been Bitten
If you find a tick on yourself, remove it safely by following these steps:
As soon as you find a tick, remove it correctly by grabbing the head of the tick with tweezers, freeze it in a plastic bag for later testing, and see your health care practitioner.
Do not squeeze the body of tick as this can force the bacteria into your bloodstream. Do not use oil to remove the tick as this can cause the tick to vomit bacteria into your bloodstream.
If you are unable to safely remove the tick, see your physician immediately for proper removal. Properly removing a tick can help prevent transmission of the disease, so check out a tick removal video such as the one from the International Lyme And Associated Diseases Society (ILADS).
Even if you don't see a rash, see your physician for treatment if you think you have been bitten by a tick. According to ILADS, only 35-60% of people infected with Lyme disease have a rash.
There are several different diagnostic tests for Lyme disease and the co-infections that ticks carry, but some tests are more sensitive and accurate than others. Be sure to see a practitioner who is experienced in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease and the associated co-infections.
Could You have Lyme Disease?
The first signs of Lyme disease often don't include a rash. Patients with Lyme disease may report having initially had flu-like symptoms. Lyme disease is often called the great imitator due to the myriad of symptoms accompanying it which can mimic other illnesses. Joint pain, chronic fatigue, sleep disorders, headaches, cognitive dysfunction, depression, sudden-onset dementia, and cardiac rhythm disturbances are just a few of the symptoms reported by patients suffering from Lyme.
In an interview in the Martha's Vineyard Times, Dr. Nevena Zubcevik from the Dean Center for Tick Borne Illness at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown, Massachusetts, reports that Lyme disease presents differently in children than in adults. Kids infected with Lyme disease may complain of headaches, fatigue, become irritable or experience mood swings. In light of this, she recommends testing a child who suddenly starts acting out in school.
If your child suffers from Lyme disease, it's important for his or her teacher to understand how Lyme disease affects your child's ability to learn. The Lyme Disease Association is one organization that offers information for parents and teachers.
Lyme disease is a serious illness which can lead to chronic health problems in 40% of patients. Moreover, ticks often carry several types of bacteria or viruses in addition to Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. One such illness is caused by the Powassan virus. Although it's a rare tick borne illness, it can be lethal in 15% of the cases and can cause chronic neurological problems in 50% of those infected.
Don't take any chances this year. Protect yourself and your family members and make tick checks a regular part of your daily routine. For additional information on Lyme disease, see our blog from April 2016. Special tick removal kits are available to help you safely remove the tick and get it properly tested. If you would like to purchase a TicKit, please contact us.
If you think you might be suffering from Lyme disease, please consult your healthcare practitioner for proper testing and educate yourself by visiting Lyme disease websites such as:
The International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society at:
The Dean Center for Tick Borne Illness at:
Lyme disease is a complex illness which often requires multi-prong approach to healing, including therapies that support your immune system. For more information, please contact us.
The contents of this blog are intended for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for proper medical attention, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or making any changes to an existing treatment plan, exercise program or dietary regimen, and before using nutritional supplements.
~ Dr. Sarah Williams ~ Concord & Nantucket, Massachusetts ~