I Never Saw a Tick on Me. But I Still Caught Lyme Disease.

I never saw it on me.

After years of walking the dog, hiking and trail running, I was trained to look for ticks. But I still didn’t spot it. Then I noticed a painless rash on my leg. I thought it was a bug bite, or skin irritation. I thought nothing of it.

I began to feel tired and developed a low-grade fever, but I still didn’t equate these symptoms to my bug bite from a tick I didn’t see, until I noticed the expanding redness around the bite.  The bite had also formed the “bull’s eye” or “target” look of Lyme disease.

By the time I saw my physician, the bull’s eye appearance was gone, but the red rash had spread. The rash looked like a common skin infection.  If I had not told my physician of the bull’s eye rash, we would have missed or delayed my Lyme disease diagnosis.

Notice I said “we.” Your doctor alone can’t diagnose a bite or rash he or she never observed. That’s why it’s important to actively participate in your health and diagnosis.

5 Essential Steps When Checking for Lyme Disease

Not all people with Lyme disease develop the bull’s eye rash. But if you do get it, measure the red patch around the bite to see if it’s expanding:

  1. Mark the edges of the patch
  2. Measure and record the patch’s height and width with a ruler
  3. Repeat the next day. Give these numbers to your physician.
  4. Take pictures of the rash and share with your doctor.
  5. Make a note if you experience fever, energy loss, and unusual joint stiffness. These are all common symptoms of early Lyme disease.

Preventing Lyme Disease

To avoid ticks, cover up with long sleeves and pants when you’re in the woods or in areas with high grass. Use insect repellant.

Ticks can be carried into your yard by your pets, so carefully examine your furry friends.

Even after you leave the woods or a grassy area, you can still prevent Lyme disease by quickly finding and removing ticks.

Here’s how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends safely removing ticks:

  • Take a bath or shower soon after coming indoors to help wash off the tick or find the little insect.
  • It’s not just a country song by Brad Paisley: really check yourself and loved ones for ticks! Use a hand-held or full-length mirror. Parents: Check for ticks under your kid’s arms, around and in their ears, inside their belly button, behind their knees, between their legs, around the waist and in their hair.
  • To remove ticks:
    • Grab the tick with a fine-tipped tweezer. Try to get as close to the surface of the skin as you can get.
    • Pull upward. Use steady, even pressure. If the mouth of the tick breaks off and stays in your skin, try to remove that part with tweezers.
    • Clean your hands and the area of the tick bite with rubbing alcohol, iodine scrub, or soap and water. Then kill it! Submerge the tick in alcohol, seal it in a bag or container, wrap it tightly in tape or flush it down the toilet.

Be Aware. Lyme Disease is Here!

Having been in practice as a chiropractor for 28 years, I saw and diagnosed many of my patients’ skin conditions, referring them on for appropriate care.

But I almost missed this diagnosis.

All health practitioners need to be aware of the early signs and symptoms of Lyme disease. Caught early, the disease is very treatable with antibiotics. Delayed recognitions can trigger life-changing complications. For more information, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at cdc.gov/lyme.

You can catch Lyme disease if you’re bitten by an infected tick.

  • 30,000 cases of Lyme disease reported annually in the U.S.
  • About 3,000 cases of Lyme disease were confirmed in New York in 2014, the most recent year for which data are available.

The number of cases is likely higher. Officials believe that only a fraction of illnesses are actually reported.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/stats/humancases.html

http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/stats/tables.html

Brian Justice, DC

Brian Justice, DC

Born and raised in Rochester, Brian is married with three beautiful children. He spends his time paddle boarding, taking his dog on long runs and living in the moment. He enjoys good conversation, a wide variety of sports and different exercises, and is always looking for the next adventure to take with his family and close friends. He was in clinical practice for 28 years as a chiropractor and for the last four years he’s served as a medical director with Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.
Brian Justice, DC

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8 thoughts on “I Never Saw a Tick on Me. But I Still Caught Lyme Disease.

  1. Nicole Jennings says:

    This is a great reminder as hunting season just started. My husband uses a lint roller on his hunting clothes after coming out of the woods to remove any ticks from the outside of his clothes to help reduce carrying them into his truck or into our house.

    • Mary Jo Richards says:

      Ticks are definitely out there even if not readily spotted. My son in law had a similar experience with a rash on his leg but never saw a tick. He was diagnosed with cellulitis. About a week later the bulls eye did form and a corrected diagnosis of Lyme disease was made.

      • Brian Justice, DC says:
        Brian Justice, DC

        Thanks Mary Jo; you bring up a fairly common scenario. The rash from Lyme Disease can often be misdiagnosed as cellulitis. That’s why personal observation (taking pictures, marking progression or regression of the rash, noting itching, swelling or color change) is so helpful in making an early and accurate diagnosis.

      • Mary says:

        I want to the doctors and I had a big bulls eye on my back she diagnosed me having cellulitis kept getting sick went to the ER they told me I had lime disease thank god they caught it in time I never seen the tick either.

    • Brian Justice, DC says:
      Brian Justice, DC

      Great idea Nicole. Thanks for sharing. Most people never think that they could catch Lyme Disease in their living room, but pets….or husbands, can carry the ticks.

  2. Katie Orem says:

    This article covers such an important topic. I have a cousin (from East Lyme, Connecticut of all places!) who suffers from chronic Lyme disease; this has made me very aware of the risk of ticks on people or pets. My dog got a tick on him when he was just playing in my parents’ yard in Pittsford – not in a wooded area at all. We found this video from NYSDOH very helpful in removing it properly: https://www.facebook.com/NYSDOH/videos/10152782180711254/

  3. Corin says:

    I am the statistic!!! I never saw a bullseye rash or a tick, and I was misdiagnosed for months! I’m talking the flu, strep, mono, even pneumonia. It started with a fever that actually continued even past treatment, then I became so fatigued I would sleep for 15 hours and need a nap a few hours after that. I did experience joint weakness in my knees but what made me beg for help was my swollen glands! My advice is too NOT give up, be your own advocate because my first western blot came back negative and that was 3 months after symptoms started so it may take longer for it to show up on testing. Also if your Lyme titer comes back positive and they give you medication while waiting for the western blot to come back I suggest continuing to take this even if your western blot comes back negative, this is what happened to me and let me tell you what the agony after the Dr called and told me to discontinue the doxy my symptoms became 10x worse!!!

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