Let’s talk about ticks and Lyme disease!
With every passing year we seem to see more and more people struggling with Lyme Disease. Some have a solid diagnosis and treatment plan, and others have many strange symptoms consistent with Lyme Disease, but have not tested positive. Those are often the saddest cases. The scary part of this problem is that they are often, previously very healthy people who have been reduced to a mess. Their general health is unpredictable, their energy levels reduced to a fraction of who they once were, and sometimes they've even lost good jobs because they've been unable to function on a daily basis.
Bottom-line: Lyme Disease is something to avoid at all costs, so today the Fiddlehead Blog will get us all up to speed on how to avoid it!
Ticks and Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is an infection caused by bacteria spread by the bite of an infected tick. The small ticks that can cause Lyme disease are becoming more and more common, but unfortunately, they are only the size of a sesame seed, so difficult to spot.
Not all types of ticks carry Lyme disease. Most commonly in the U.S., Lyme disease is spread by the black-legged tick, also known as a deer tick. In most cases, an infected tick must be attached for at least 36 hours in order to infect its host with Lyme disease. This means prompt tick removal is key!
Most of us know about the tell tale bull’s-eye rash that can be associated with a tick bite. However, other, non-visible Lyme disease symptoms, can mimic many other diseases, therefore it is it frequently misdiagnosed. This disease can affect any organ of the body, including the brain and nervous system, muscles and joints, and the heart.
A classic sign of the bite:
The classic sign of a Lyme's Disease tick bite is shown to your right - "The Target". If you've been bitten by a tick and see this red center lesion, with red circles surrounding it and radiating outward, you should photograph it and make an appointment with your doctor ASAP.
The physician will order testing to obtain confirmation of the disease and then may prescribe a course of antibiotics. Again, it's KEY to get to your physician as soon as you notice this lesion, because early administration of antibiotics often reduces the severity and duration of symptoms.
Interesting Facts &Misconceptions:
Here in Vermont, in the New England region of the U.S., we have a particularly intractable health problem with “Lyme’s Disease”. I see at least one patient a week struggling with the illness and I hear a lot of folklore about what should be done about the rise in the problem.
First, there is a misunderstanding about the kinds of ticks that transmit the disease. The bite actually comes from an increasingly common pest called a “deer tick”, which is the size of a poppy seed, not the large ticks that swell to the size of a pea on our pets.
Here's an interesting fact: People used to think the prevalence of Lyme’s Disease followed increases in the deer population, but now we know that the disease is more common when fox populations fall.
It turns out that foxes keep the tick population down by eating the small creatures on whom the tick starts its life cycle: mice, voles, and other tiny rodents. The deer are only the transportation vehicle for the adult ticks at the endpoint of their life-cycle.
Solid science has found that the most productive way to reduce the deer tick population is to attack its life-cycle at the earliest point: bring back a healthy fox population!
If you’d like to know more about that relationship, click here to see a fabulous article by the Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.
If you'd like more information to put this all in an interesting perspective, check out Dr. Lynda's website, EverWideningCircles, for an amazing article to further understand the importance of bringing back and preserving the diversity of wildlife in our surroundings!
How can we best prevent a tick bite?
- Avoid high grass and bushy areas.
- Always wear long pants and long sleeves when walking or working in the woods or brushy areas. The goal is to minimize exposed skin.
- Also, a nice trick may be to wear Light colored clothing so you can easily spot them!
- At our house, strange as it may seem, we remove our outer layer of clothes in the garage or on the back porch, and leave them outside for a day or so. That way, if we've picked up a tick, we won't drag it into our house.
- Tick repellents can be useful on skin or clothing.
- Most importantly, when you come inside, check yourself, your kids, and your pets!