Tick Tock: It is Always Prevention Time

Tick Tock:  It is Always Prevention Time

Previously, I blogged about Lyme disease; but, considering the warm winter, I feel it’s important to state a few facts.  Ticks can indeed be active in winter.  According to Terminix:

“Depending on the species – and stage in their life cycle – ticks survive the winter months by going dormant or latching onto a host. Ticks hide in the leaf litter present in the wooded or brushy areas they tend to populate. When snow falls, it only serves to insulate the dormant ticks, which are protected by the layer of debris. Or, in the case of soft-shell ticks, they survive by staying underground in burrows or dens.

According to Tickencounter.com:

“Adult stage deer ticks become active every year after the first frost. They’re not killed by freezing temperatures, and while other ticks enter a feeding diapause as day-lengths get shorter, deer ticks will be active any winter day that the ground is not snow-covered or frozen. This surprises people, especially during a January thaw or early spring day. Remember this fact and hopefully you’ll never be caught off-guard.”

And from the website PetMD:

“Ticks are also capable of surviving winter temperatures when they are able to find a host to feed from or a warm location to hide in during the coldest weather months. Generally, adult ticks will still be a threat when temperatures hover around 45 degrees Fahrenheit.”

If you find yourself with a tick attached to you, best to remove it as follows, according to Tickencounter.com:

“Steps to removing a tick safely :

  1. Use a pointy tick removal tweezer
  2. Disinfect with rubbing alcohol
  3. Grab tick close to skin and use slow, steady motion to pull tick out
  4. Disinfect again
  5. Consider Tick Testing for infection”

As you can see above, you can get your tick tested for disease, which I recommend.  If you find one has bitten you, I suggest you get tested as well.  Evidence suggests you will not be infected if the tick is attached for 24 hours or less, but why would you take a chance?  Typically, but not always, if you catch the disease early, you will test positive on the Western Blot.  However, you may want to wait a few weeks, after being bitten, prior to testing, as it can take a few weeks for actual detection of the antibodies.  Absolutely get tested if you begin to exhibit symptoms, such as the following:

  • headache
  • joint pain
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • skin rash in the shape of a bull’s-eye

In such a case, you should get tested immediately, even if you have never found the tick itself.  We were able to catch my son’s case early for two reasons.  Firstly, about 3 weeks after he had been out to summer camp he got a classic bull’s eye rash on his stomach.  Secondly, he had all of the above symptoms.  He was a classic case and we were lucky, he tested positive.  He was on Diocycyline for 4, or so, weeks and has been asymptomatic since.  He was one of the lucky ones.  Maybe you are thinking that if you don’t find a rash, you don’t have the disease; however, studies and statistics on the subject vary wildly.  Some say as few as 27% of the infected cases show a rash, while others are as high as 80%.  Frankly, most people I know, who have long-term Lyme, or related diseases, never found a rash.

So what do we do if we test positive for Lyme early on?  In other words, you know you were out in the woods and you become symptomatic in one way or another and you test positive.  The NIH (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) says the following, regarding treatment:

“For early Lyme disease, a short course of oral antibiotics, such as doxycycline or amoxicillin, cures the majority of cases. In more complicated cases, Lyme disease can usually be successfully treated with three to four weeks of antibiotic therapy.”

But what if you never realized you were bitten and you begin developing strange symptoms, over a period of time.  Or, what if you were treated for it as prescribed above, but the symptoms return.  Sadly, the NIH suggests the following:

“After being treated for Lyme disease, a minority of patients may still report non-specific symptoms, including persistent pain, joint and muscle aches, fatigue, impaired cognitive function, or unexplained numbness. These patients often show no evidence of active infection and may be diagnosed with post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS). In patients with PTLDS, studies have shown that more antibiotic therapy is not beneficial and the risks outweigh the benefits.”

I can tell you the above statement about “more antibiotic therapy” not being beneficial, was not the case for another member of my family.  The extensive use of antibiotics was, in our second case, life saving and necessary.  It is devastating to realize we cannot trust the NIH, and a great many in the medical community, in this regard.  But who can we trust?  How many doctors told our family that we were on the “Yoyo treatment” (“your on your own”) because they could find nothing wrong?  Too many medical professionals suggested this, or just plain called us crazy.  That, to me, is unacceptable.  And I wonder how many others have suffered the same fate.  New CDC and NIH treatment guidelines and proper diagnosis techniques are badly needed, as this disease becomes more pervasive and insidious.

Personally, I suggest, if you test positive for Lyme, insist on a minimum of 4 weeks of antibiotics.  To be safe, 6 weeks.  I am not a doctor, so I ask you not to take my word for it, but my experience is that doctors often err on the side of under-treatment.  If you kill the disease(s) off immediately, within 4-6 weeks of antibiotics, isn’t that far better then to discover, much later, that you have not successfully killed off the infections and/or co-infections?  If your illness evolves into long-term Lyme, you will likely need to be on antibiotics for much longer than 6 weeks (if you go to a Lyme literate doctor), and possibly on a picc line for a short time.  Better to be aggressive early on than to pay the piper later, so to speak.  Again, don’t take my word for it, I am not a doctor. I would not attempt to tell anyone what is best regarding treatment.  I can only tell you, from personal experience, that treating long-term Lyme is a difficult, expensive and painful experience (if you can even find a doctor who can successfully deliver your treatment).  But the good news is this; you can get help, you can be successfully treated, and you can reach remission. The bad news is that is is hard to find a Lyme literate doctor to give you the treatment you need for a long-term case.  These are the sad realities of our times.

If you want more information regarding the infections and co-infections carried by these ticks please see the following websites:

Tick-Borne Diseases

Lyme and Co-infections

Bottom line here is early intervention and prevention are the best ways to avoid Lyme and the co-infections associated with ticks.  Here are some prevention tips:

Lyme and Related Diseases Prevention Tips

Here are a few helpful bullets from the Mayo Clinic:

“You can decrease your risk of getting Lyme disease with some simple precautions:
  1. Cover up. …
  2. Use insect repellents. …
  3. Do your best to tick-proof your yard. …
  4. Check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks. …
  5. Don’t assume you’re immune. …
  6. Remove a tick as soon as possible with tweezers.”

If you have strange symptoms, have been to more than a dozen doctors, and no one can diagnose you (or they tell you it is in your head), go to the below website to view an extensive list of Lyme, and related infections, symptoms.  Maybe you are not crazy.  Maybe you have Lyme and/or related co-infections.  See the following link for an extensive list of symptoms:

Dr. Burrascano’s Symptom Check List

Yes, you should take preventative measures all year long, as listed above (don’t forget your DEET).  You should treat your pets for tick prevention all year long, as well.  After all, our best defense is an offensive.  In the meantime, we must continue to fight for better diagnostic tools and insurance coverage.  We have a long fight ahead but together we can make a difference.

Stay informed here:

NatCapLyme

“Chronic Lyme causes arthritis, heart problems, stroke – even death”  Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates (fellow sufferer)

(featured image courtesy of ldclimelogogreengreen)

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