PROTECT YOURSELF FROM TICK-BORNE ILLNESS
By: Dr. Amanda Boccio
It’s about time we get outside to work in the yard and garden; and if you’re like me, you’ve been itching to get out for a long hike. Every year we hear more about the prevalence of tick bites, Lyme disease, and other tick-borne illnesses in our area, so it is imperative that we know how to protect ourselves as we venture outdoors. One of our staff members recently attended an informative seminar hosted by the Lyme Action Network, and we would like to share some valuable information presented by microbiology professor Holly Ahern, and Christina Fisk
So what is Lyme Disease? Lyme Disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted by a bite from an infected deer tick. Ticks can also pass along other pathogens including Anaplasma, Babesia, Bartonella, Ehrlichia and Powassan, which can result in co-infections. Lyme Disease is characterized by the presence of a “bulls-eye rash,” but the rash is NOT always present. Only 30% of patients with a confirmed Lyme diagnoses report seeing a rash. The symptoms of Lyme Disease are highly variable, and tend to mimic other illness, which is why misdiagnosis is very common. Lyme and its co-infections can attack any or all of the body’s systems including musculoskeletal, neurological, digestive and cardiac systems. Symptoms include (but are not limited to) fatigue, joint pain, muscle stiffness, headache, changes in vision or hearing, trouble sleeping, poor concentration and brain fog etc… If caught early and treated appropriately, Lyme is less likely to become a chronic illness.
How can we prevent tick bites in the first place? While outdoors, wear long sleeved, light colored clothing, and tuck your pants into your socks. Treat your outdoor clothing with permethrin (a substance that is effective for killing ticks), and store the treated clothing in plastic bags in the garage to be used the next time you are outdoors. When using insect repellant with DEET, spray it on outdoors, and reapply as directed. Natural insect repellents like lemongrass and citrus oil need to be reapplied every 2-3 hours because they may not be as effective as those containing DEET. Once you and your family are indoors, throw the clothing you were wearing in the dryer for 15 minutes, and take a shower. Perform frequent “tick checks” on all adults and children; being mindful to check hard to see places like the scalp and back. Don’t forget to check your pets!
A tick has attached itself to me/ my spouse/ my child. What do I do now? Since an infected tick can transmit disease fairly quickly, it is imperative to remove the tick from the skin as soon as possible. Grab the tick where it meets the skin using fine-tipped tweezers and pull straight up. Save the tick in a plastic zip-lock bag, and send it to the Laboratory of Medical Zoology at the University of Massachusetts (https://www.tickreport.com/). The lab will be able to tell you if the tick was a carrier of any pathogens. Knowing if you were exposed or not to disease causing agents will help you and your health care provider decide what to do next.
Tick-Borne Disease has become a public health crisis here in New York State and in our community. Please visit the Lyme Action Network website at www.lymeactionnetwork.org to learn more valuable information about this topic. If you have any questions about this article, please feel free to contact us at the Sports & Spinal Wellness Center at 518-869-3415. Please visit our website for more information at www.sportsandspinalwellness.com. We would be happy to be a part of your healthcare team.