Spring is here and it’s time to start the anti-tick medicine for our pets. Canines and felines are not the only ones who need tick care. If you live in mid-atlantic, upper midwest, or northeastern states, then you are vulnerable to B-Burgdorferi aka Lyme disease. With only about 38,000 confirmed cases per year, Lyme disease isn’t that common. So don’t freak if you find a blood hungry tick attached to your neck. You can throw an EEK fit after the little bugger is safely removed. Here’s how to do it:
For those of you (like me) who need an actual demonstration watch this:
Should you rush to the doctor If you just got bit by a tick? No. Review the statistics. No need to panic. The little zombie needs to feed on you for roughly twenty-four hours to transmit a pathogen. Besides, it takes about six weeks for you to produce antibodies (+ test), so getting a blood test early after exposure is a waste. But, do keep an eye open for signs and symptoms of lyme disease:
The hallmark of Lyme disease diagnosis (other than a positive blood test) is the rash, known as erythema migrans. This distinct rash is greater than five cm, oval, mildly red that may have a clearing in the center (bullseye). The rash develops anywhere from one to three weeks after the tick bite.
The CDC recommends a blood test for Lyme disease when:
Anyone with flu like symptoms, joint aches, swollen lymph nodes and live (or traveled to) regions where lyme disease is commonly found…
The proper blood test is the 2 tiered test for antibodies, if it is lyme disease, test will be positive six weeks after exposure.
A couple of other tidbits:
- Chronic lyme disease is a misnomer in patients who have not had a + test or exposure to ticks.
- One course of antibiotics is the accepted protocol for Lyme disease treatment. If symptoms persist after treatment, a second course is not recommended. Rather, provider should re-evaluate for other causes of symptoms.
- The new “lyme culture” to test for chronic Lyme disease is not FDA approved. If you get one you will have to dish out the $600 from your own pocket, insurance won’t pick up the tab.
- Want more detailed information? Visit the CDC website for everything you always wanted to know about Lyme disease.
To give you a little provider perspective on the statistics, I live in Lyme disease territory (NYS), and in my 20+ years of practice I have only seen one case. Have any of you had an experience or encounter with Lyme? Please tell me in the comments. Now that you are creeped out and itching, time to walk the dog. Don’t forget to check for ticks (and save them in a little jar) when you get home.
Hey-thanks for reading. I’m Kathy, wife to Gary, and mom to three teenage sons. I’ve been a family nurse practitioner since 1991 and currently practice in addiction medicine. I also negotiate clinical placements for APN grad students. We’re home schoolers with a dash of un-schooling. My most memorable celebrity patient: the Munchkin Coroner from the Wizard of Oz.