Yes. Ticks are exceptionally bad this year. Full Stop.
And yes. Ticks are exceptionally bad each and every year, but this one seems to be getting off to a quick and hard start. A few weeks ago, I took my dog into the vet’s for her Lyme vaccine. The vet reminded me that the vaccine is not 100% effective and to make sure we use Frontline year round. She also said to be very careful, that they have been removing ticks from dogs at an alarming rate and have been doing so non-stop since January. Not only have I been hearing about ticks being on dogs, but I am being told by family and friends that they have been either been bitten or had one crawling on them many times over the last week or so. My dad just called me to tell me he has a tick attached and is off to the doctor to have it removed and tested. Not much can scare and worry me like a tick bite can.
Since it is just the beginning of the Spring/Summer season (it’s been darn cold here in NJ considering it is May!)I feel compelled to share some PSA-type information.
The best advice I can give to someone who has been bitten is to SAVE the tick!! Remove it carefully without squeezing or pinching the tick. There are Labs all over the country that you can send ticks to to be tested to see what infections that carry. You can Google Tick Testing Lab, or here is a link to one that I found: Tick Testing. The prices might seem high, with the cost averaging $60-$75, but in my experience, that is much less expensive then all of the testing and treatment you might need otherwise. Once you know what diseases the tick carries you will be able to more accurately plan treatment.
The next best bit of advice is to ask for a prophylactic dose of antibiotics, usually doxycycline, from your doctor. Some doctors are willing to prescribe, others might need a bit more coaxing. It is very important keep in mind that treatment of Early Lyme is usually quite easy and successful. It isn’t until the disease become disseminated and chronic that you end up in the hell that my family is in and has been in. Most Lyme literate people believe that enough antibiotics to extend through a full life-cycle of the Borellia bacteria is needed (28 days). If the doctor only prescribes 2 weeks, as is common, see if you can get a refill for the additional 2 weeks. (Disclaimer: I am obviously not a doctor so research and discuss this with your doctor, but don’t let him/her blow you off.) Many people are hesitant to take antibiotics unless truly medically necessary, but again, 4-6 weeks of antibiotics is a better scenario than the 5+ years each of us in my family has done. And we are not done yet.
While not all ticks are infected with Lyme and other co-infections, deer ticks are not the only ticks that carry these bacteria and parasites. Read Know Your Tick Facts for more information. Common wisdom says that a tick must be attached between 24-48 hours before bacteria is transmitted to the person. However there is evidence that the bacteria is present in the tick’s saliva and can be passed almost immediately to you.
Obviously, prevention is critical as well, because most people don’t remember ever getting bitten and very few people actually get a bulls-eye rash. (If you are one of the lucky ones to get a bulls-eye, take a photo of it, with a coin next to it to show its size. Most rashes fade by the time you get to a doctor and the rash is one of the few ways to be “CDC Positive,” and to get coverage by your insurance company for treatment.”) Always use bug spray. I used to be a all-natural type, and made my own bug spray with essential oils, but now it is “Give me DEET!” There are many different sprays using different chemicals so use what best fits your philosophy. Permethrin is excellent for spraying clothing. I spray a set of gardening clothes that I will use just for yard work. I buy Permethrin from Amazon.
Tick checks are also imperative and ticks gravitate to warm, moist area, like neck and hair, armpits and groin. Keep in mind that ticks– nymphs and deer ticks are tiny- the size of a poppy seed. I always keep my hair pulled back tight when I am outside and will wear a hat sometimes too. Experts say that it is best to wear long sleeves and long pants but when I am doing yard work, I feel that I can sense something on my skin better than if I were wearing long pants. But that is just me.
I know that there is so much more info to share but I can’t think of it all off of the top of my head any more. My brain has decided to shut down, not an uncommon occurrence for anyone with Lyme! The only last bit that I need to share if you get bitten and/or have Lyme symptoms, is to look for a Lyme Literate Doctor and to get tested at reputable lab such as IGeniX or MDL.
Leave me a comment if you have any specific questions! And please, be careful out there– while it is bad, we cannot let those damn bug win!