Every month of May I include a column in the paper about Lyme disease.
May was Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and having experienced it firsthand, I hope to make people cognizant of the presence of disease, its symptoms, its long-term ramifications, and also how do identify the ticks and the initial symptoms before they do their damage.
Every May, I receive more feedback on that column than almost any other column I have ever written. Lyme Disease is more prevalent than ever and it's important for us to realize what can be done about it. In fact, just this last weekend I found another deer tick on me. May 28 was Edwin's birthday, and one of the things he wanted to do was have a "Boys Only" camp-out. So on Friday night he and I and three of his friends camped at Mauthe Lake State Park, in a walk to tenting campsite. The boys ran around like wild boys, and I tried to supervise and bite my lip every time they were in the thicker woods and the tall grass, as that's where the ticks are. Upon arriving home on Saturday I gave Eddy the full body check looking for any critters. I didn't find any thankfully. I did the same for myself before showering on Saturday morning and was clear as well.
Then came Sunday. I'm getting out of the shower midday and as I brush my chest off I feel something that shouldn't be there. And sure enough there was a deer tick partially embedded on my right pectoral area. At first I thought it was a small "booger" but my mind immediately went to, "Oh no, please please don't be a tick...."
The only reason I found it was because it had been slightly engorged from its meal—my blood. I quickly got it and put it in a Ziploc bag so as not to lose it. I can't emphasize how small they really are. I then checked Edwin one more time for any ticks and also checked my daughter, Estelle, just for good measure. Then I rechecked myself looking everywhere to make sure there wasn't another on me.
Next my mind shifted to what we do moving forward. Many do not know that the ticks can be checked and tested to see if they carry Lyme Disease's spirochete. I actually sell this test kit at my office for $10, and I think it's an excellent tool to have on hand if you spend any time at all in the woods. The kit includes a tick-removal tool, some stickers with numbers on them so as to identify them upon arrival at the lab, an envelop, and a small ziploc bag. There is also a very small amount of paperwork involved.
Upon receiving the tick via mail, the lab gets you results within 24 hours. The lab tests cost $40, which in my mind is a true value, if you consider the cost of long-term antibiotics and other treatment options should you contract Lyme Disease! The lab tests can determine whether the tick carried the Lyme-causing spirochete. The lab can also determine how long the tick was embedded and feeding. Lyme disease is not spread immediately. It takes 36 to 48 hours of attachment for that to happen, so you can gain some peace of mind in knowing the tick was only embedded for an hour or two.
As I write this, I'm awaiting my test results. I'm also experiencing one of the symptoms of early Lyme, which is the sensation of stuff crawling all over you. I consider myself hyper-vigilant to Lyme Disease and ticks. And yet one still got me. I'm glad it wasn't Edwin but it's still unnerving to know. I have many friends who suffer with chronic Lyme and I've seen it off in my office and it is not something you want to mess around with. The treatments are rough. The wide variations in symptoms are worse. If my test results come back showing that the tick did indeed carry the lime disease, I will immediately seek a strong antibiotic quickly and not allow it to grow and spread and cause bigger and more dangerous health issues.
I have friends and patients with chronic Lyme Disease and it truly is terrible. A recent article I read from an immunologist stated that he has seen far worse symptoms in cases when treating Lyme Disease as compared to AIDS. Think about that—Lyme may be, right now, as bad or worse than AIDS in terms of the havoc and pain it causes in its carriers. The woods and the outdoors are excellent for your health and for your soul. Just be sure to check yourself and your kids and your dogs as often as you can, and don't forget to stop in and pick up a Lyme Aid Test Kit. Any questions? Contact our office at 894-2399.
(The contents of this column are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional health care advice. Do not use the information in this column for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition.)