The Best Protection Against Lyme Disease: Don’t Get Bit and Early Detection

Friday Jun 3, 2016 | BY |
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get tested for lyme disease, test ticks for lyme disease

Preventing Lyme disease is the best medicine. If you don’t get bit, you won’t get sick.

Warmer spring weather likely signals an early start of tick season that peaks in the summer and lasts to fall. Ticks are an unavoidable biological menace in many parts of the United States. If you like to spend time in nature, especially in tick infested regions, you’ll likely get bit.

Lyme disease is a growing epidemic. The three areas of highest rate of infection are along the Atlantic Ocean from Maryland to Massachusetts, in the upper Midwest especially Wisconsin and Minnesota, and northern California near the Pacific Coast. These areas are heavily forested with second and third growth trees. The dense undergrowth in these kinds of forests is perfect breeding spots of ticks. Ticks are readily picked up from trail-side overhanging bushes.

Blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) are the most common carrier of Lyme disease. Typical symptoms of infection include fever, malaise and fatigue, and headache. Sometimes there’s the classical bull’s eye rash at the site of the tick bite, but not always.

The only way to prevent tick bites is to avoid getting bitten.

5 Tips For Preventing Tick Bites:

  1. Avoid hiking in areas with a high prevalence of ticks that carry Lyme disease.
  2. If you hike, stay on trails and avoid tall grass and thick bushy areas.
  3. Use insect repellent.
  4. Wear protective clothing, including long pants and long sleeved shirts.
  5. Immediately after your hike, shake out your clothes and check your body for ticks.

Remove any ticks you find with a fine-tipper tweezers. The CDC advises removing ticks as soon as possible. I recommend carrying tweezers in one of the front pockets in your daypack. If you get bitten on the trail, remove ticks immediately.

Find A Tick, Take A Pic!

Even with newer and better laboratory tests, tick-borne infections are not easily diagnosed. If you’re bitten, the best way to know is to test the tick.

The University of Rhode Island has an ingenious way of identifying ticks. If you find a tick, put it in a small plastic or glass vial, or zip lock bag. Go to TickEncounter and look for a picture of the tick you found. If you don’t see a match from the choice of pictures, take a snapshot with your smart phone or camera, download it to your computer, and upload it to TickSpotters.

You don’t have to wait until bitten to test ticks for Lyme disease. This is especially important if you live in an area of high infestation, like areas outside New York City or in Rhode Island. You can test tics found in your back yard before they bite.

Home Test Kits For Ticks

TickChek tests the tick, not you. Remove the tick. Mail it to the lab. Get your results within 72 hours by SMS text message. If you request, this Pennsylvania based laboratory will automatically fax the test results to your doctor’s office. PCR-based tick testing methods are 99.9 percent accurate.

TIC-KIT from Pharmasan Labs in Wisconsin is a prepaid, inexpensive test kit. It includes a tick removal tool and a container for shipping. Results are viewed online in 4 to 7 days. If you live in an area of high Lyme infection, keep one or more on hand incase you or a family member gets bit.

Remember, these test kits are to see if the tick that bit you carried disease. TickChek can test for Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Babesia, Bartonella, Ehrlichiosis, Tularemia, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. TIC-KIT tests for Borrelia, Bartonella, Ehclichia, and Babesia.

If the results indicate Lyme or a related disease, see your doctor. You still have to have blood tests to determine if you are infected.

Lyme Symptoms and Treatment Options

The bacteria Borrelia causes Lyme disease. Acute Lyme disease is curable with common antibiotics. If caught early enough, the effective rate for doxycycline and amoxicillin are almost 100 percent.

Natural remedies and nutritional supplements are not strong enough by themselves to serve as primary treatment. However, they are important components for a comprehensive program in the treatment of chronic Lyme disease.

Not every one gets the first warning signs of infection. But, if you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor. Be sure to tell the doctor about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick. If you tested the tick, give your doctor a copy of the results.

Chronic Lyme disease is a serious medical condition. Symptoms include severe fatigue, brain fog and memory loss, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, and relentless headaches. An overactive immune response to Borrelia, or to co-infections by Babesia, Bartonella, or tick-borne viruses can trigger autoimmune diseases like Multiple Sclerosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Rapid Identification and Prevention

Remember, prevention is the best medicine. If you don’t get bit, you won’t get sick. Of course, not every bite results in infection. Sometimes the bacteria aren’t active, or the microorganism doesn’t get transmitted to your blood. Sometimes even blacklegged ticks don’t carry Lyme bacteria. Sometimes your immune system is strong enough to counter the Lyme bacteria or co-infections.

Tick testing is not a substitute for diagnosis by an experienced doctor, but it is a useful aid in deciding whether or not to treat in the absence of disease symptoms. Remember, that just because the tick you sent to the lab tests positive does not mean that the pathogen was transmitted.

Besides Lyme, ticks carry at least fourteen different infections. In addition to rapid identification of the tick that bit you and the diseases it carries, you’ll need to get tested yourself. A bull’s eye rash is the classic mark of your body’s immune reaction to infection, so is a fever.

If you suspect infection from a tick bite, don’t wait. Get tested as soon as possible. If you get infected, don’t delay treatment.

Dr. J. E. Williams

J. E. WILLIAMS, OMD, FAAIM

Dr. Williams is a pioneer in integrative and functional medicine, the author of six books, and a practicing clinician with over 100,000 patient visits. His areas of interest include longevity and viral immunity. Formerly from San Diego, he now resides in Sarasota, Florida and practices at the Florida Integrative Medical Center. He teaches at NOVA Southeastern University and Emperor’s College of Oriental Medicine.

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  1. June Hanson says:

    So happy, that you, as my Doctor, have so much knowledge on Lyme, a bacteria, that for years, Doctors would not even recognize it.. To know there are so many tests, hopefully people will use them, as waiting game is not pleasant. So many are suffering, then the complications, if not treated, become very serious.

    Keep up the good work of informing us, as there still is not much said about Lyme Disease.

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