Treatment, Care & Prevention of Lyme Disease from Tick Bites

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SUMMER IS COMING!!!

Tick Bites can lead to painful and debilitating Lyme Disease! Lyme disease, caused by the bacteria: Borrelia Burgdoreri, is transmitted from the bite of an infected Black-legged Tick. The first occurrence was originally described in Lyme, CT, USA. Lyme disease is a multi-System Disorder caused by the Tick bite. The incubation period is typically 2-30 days after a bite when you can see an expanding skin lesion at the site of the bite. The tick is so small and the bite so mild, you may not even realize it. Particularly when you live in Florida where the mosquitoes are so big, they don’t always eat you in-place, sometimes they carry you off to their nest where they feed you to their young…. And then there are are the Florida No-see-ums, that bite like an alligator, but are seemingly invisible to the naked eye. But as annoying as Florida’s flying monsters can be, they are a minor nuisance compared to the devastation that can be caused by a tick bite. Many describe Lyme Disease as “Flu-like” symptoms. If these symptoms occur in Summer, suspect Lyme Disease. Make great haste to your doctor! The disease can spread rapidly to your heart, joints and nervous system! Lyme Disease is best if treated early…The earlier the better.

I highly recommend you keep your immune system STRONG! Exercise Prescriptions should not be performed to exhaustion before you go for your hike, since that will temporarily depress you immune system. Also, your Nutrition Prescriptions should boost your immune system, not depress it! Highly restrictive diets, less than 1,200 calories/day can depress your immune system. Refer to the Super Food Diet FitBit for more information on keeping your immune system strong!

Spending time in Nature is excellent you, but please avoid being on the “Tick’s: Take-Out Menu!”

According to the CDC-Centers for Disease Control:

  • Early Signs and Symptoms (3 to 30 days after tick bite)
  • Fever, chills, severe headaches, fatigue, mild neck stiffness, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes
  • Erythema migrans (EM) rash: Can occur in approximately 70-80% of Lyme Disease cases. It begins after a slight delay of 3-30 days, with an average around 7 days at the site of the bite. The rash will begin to expand gradually over a period of days and can reach a circumference of 12 inches or more across. The Rash can feel warm to the touch, but is rarely painful or itchy. On occasion it may clear somewhat to appear more like a “Bull’s-Eye.”
  • You may also experience Lymphadenopathy (Swelling of the Lymph Nodes), profound fatigue and lethargy.

Later Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease: potentially days to months after the tick bite:

  • Severe headaches and neck stiffness
  • Additional EM Rashes appear on the body
  • Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly with the knees and other large joints
  • Facial or Bell’s palsy (loss of muscle tone or droop of one or both sides of the face)
  • Intermittent pain in your tendons, muscles, joints and bones
  • Episodes of dizziness or shortness of breath
  • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis)
  • Nerve pain (neuralgia)
  • Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in your hands, arms, legs or feet
  • Problems with short-term memory and mental confusion

If Lyme Disease is treated in the early stages with antibiotics, you can recover early and completely. The typical course is oral antibiotics, but some people with certain neurological or cardiac illnesses may require treatments with intravenous antibiotics. There are a small percentage of cases that last 6 months or longer. These cases can also be treated with antibiotics with good outcomes.

Even though most cases of Lyme Disease are reported in warmer Summer months (ticks are most active April-September), they can occur year round. Therefore, it is a good idea to take precautions any time you are planning a nature hike in what may be Tick Territory!

Prevention: Avoid direct contact with ticks by avoiding wooded areas with high grass, bushes and leaf litter. Walk in the center of the trail. Repel Ticks with DEET or Permethrin (there are some natural repellents, but do your own research on how effective they are). I use repellents that contain 20-30% DEET on exposed skin and then put it on heavier over my clothing. It can last for up to several hours. You can also use products with 0.5% Permethrin on clothing, gear, boots, socks, pants, tents etc.. It will typically maintain it’s effectiveness through several washings.

Search, Find and Remove Ticks from your body (and remember, they are SMALL!). Hit the showers/bath ASAP after coming indoors, preferably within an hour or two to wash off and find the ticks that may be crawling on you. Conduct a FULL-BODY TICK CHECK using a hand held or full length mirror to view all parts of your body when you return from a tick-infested area. Check all areas including ears, belly button and especially the hair…ticks love hair, it is a good place to hide! Ticks can also hide in your equipment, clothing or your pets. Therefore, you must check everything carefully. Wash your clothes with HOT Water to kill ticks. Use extra caution and tumble dry your cloths on high heat. It must be HIGH HEAT, otherwise the ticks just think it is an Amusement Park Ride!

SUMMER is a Great Time of Year, please follow this advice to keep a parasite from ruining it for you!

Good Luck,

Dr. Jim Bell

CEO, IFPA

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