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Lyme Disease and Co-Infections

Lyme Disease: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure…

By May 1, 2013July 27th, 2017No Comments

Since Lyme can become a chronic infection prevention and early diagnosis is the best defense against this disease. Here are some tips from our Lyme-literate naturopathic doctors to help prevent Chronic Lyme Disease:

1. Be able to identify a tick

Knowing what a tick is and what it looks like can help to identify if you have been bit. Ticks have round bodies, a small head, and eight legs, and are when full grown are the size of rice. Some ticks can be near impossible to see when they are in the nymph form as they are the size of a poppy seed. When a tick bites a human it buries it head under the skin and becomes engorged before it releases.

2. Wear proper clothing

When in tick areas, wear the following;

  • Socks and/or high-top, closed footwear.
  • Long pants, tucked into socks or footwear.
  • A hat.
  • Long sleeved shirt, tucked into pants.
  • Ensure all clothing is light-colored so you can see the dark bodies of ticks.

3. Use tick spray

  • DEET is the most common insect repellent you’ll find. It’s 90-some-percent effective for eight hours. The down side is that DEET is a synthetic neurotoxin, and that it can destroy any synthetic (polyester, nylon, etc.) gear or clothing you spray it on. You can find DEET-based repellents everywhere.
  • PMD is a bio-identical chemical derived from the oils of the lemon eucalyptus tree. These repellents are effective for six hours.

4. Check your body after outdoor activities

A tick stays attached for a long time once it starts feeding. Having the tick that bit you also means that you can get the tick itself checked for the presence of infectious organisms. The first step is finding them. If you’re camping, or hiking, or spending any time outdoors at all, do a tick check when you get back. It’s not hard, and it doesn’t take long. Keep in mind that you can’t personally inspect every part of your body, so it’s best to have a friend or family member help out, and of course to check children or others who cannot do it themselves.

Remove your clothes and inspect your or your partner’s skin for anything unusual. Keep in mind that you will only see the tick’s body, which may be small if it hasn’t been feeding for long.

Check in any hair, creases, or other places a tick might want to hide. They’re especially fond of scalps and belly buttons for some reason, but also like the groins, armpits, and behind ears.

If you find a tick and it’s surrounded by a bullseye rash, call the clinic to see one of our naturopathic doctors as soon as possible to have it removed and get treated for Lyme disease. The bulls-eye rash is the only external sign that proves Lyme disease beyond any doubt.

Always keep the tick. It needs to be tested for the presence of Lyme disease and other infectious bacteria’s. This helps support a Lyme diagnosis when a bulls-eye rash is absent, most of the time this is the case.

5. Check Your Pets

Dogs and other pets can also get ticks — and Lyme disease! Brush their fur and keep an eye out for anything unusual on their skin. You can also use repellent on them, but take care around their face. There is a vaccine available for dogs to prevent Lyme disease; however this does not prevent dogs from bringing ticks into the home and biting humans!

6. Remove the Tick Safely

If you find a tick, do not burn it, pierce it, squeeze it, smother it, or smear any substances on it. If you do, two things are likely to happen:

a.) The tick will burrow deeper to get away from the threat.

b.) The tick will regurgitate into your bloodstream, increasing the risk of infection.

The proper way to remove a tick is as follows:

  • Use the right tool. There are specialized tick removal tools, and a lot of them work as advertised. It is beyond the scope of this article to go over the possibilities in that regard. Short of that, fine-nosed tweezers will work.
  • Grip the tick as close to the mouth parts as possible. Larva won’t be embedded very deep, but they are tiny. Adults are easier to get a hold on, but they can embed below the dermis. Do not grip the body or the tick will regurgitate, increasing your risk of infection.
  • Pull the tick straight out. Do not twist or bend it or the head will break off and stay embedded in your skin.
  • Put the tick in a bag. For it to survive long enough to get to the lab, the tick needs air.
  • Note what the bite wound looks like. Take a picture. The information may help in the future.
  • Take note of the date, which will help if any diagnoses are required.
  • Wash the wound with soap and water, and then disinfect it.
  • Bring the tick to the clinic to be tested. There are cases when a tick has to be excised because it cannot be pulled out. If you can’t remove the tick, leave it alone and go to a doctor you trust.

7. Get tested if you develop a rash or symptoms and do not have the tick

Find a Lyme literate naturopathic or medical doctor who is familiar with Lyme lab tests and co-infection testing. Blood tests are important to confirm and support clinical symptoms and an accurate diagnosis. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to prevent the development of chronic Lyme and long term complications. If you think you may already be suffering from Lyme disease, please call the clinic for an assessment.

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