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:
- Mark the edges of the patch
- Measure and record the patch’s height and width with a ruler
- Repeat the next day. Give these numbers to your physician.
- Take pictures of the rash and share with your doctor.
- 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