Treat the Bite & Early Symptoms to Prevent Chronic Lyme Disease
If you’ve found a tick and/or rash on yourself or a loved one and don’t know what to do this post is for you!
There are two “standards of care” for Lyme disease. One standard believes that it’s a simple illness, easily diagnosed, and easily cured with one or two short courses of antibiotics (www.idsociety.org/lyme). The other believes that Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses are complex medical conditions that often long-term antibiotic treatment (www.ilads.org).
The majority of the mainstream medical community follow the first approach. I have personal experience of being bitten by a tick, followed by the subsequent mismanagement of the situation, which led to years of misdiagnosed chronic Lyme disease. Given my experience and continued fight with the chronic form of this illness, I believe in the peer-reviewed, evidence-based International Lyme And Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) standard. It’s important to be aware of both standards of care in case you ever find yourself in the position I did.
If you’ve found an attached tick, follow these steps:
- Remove properly. Improper removal can increase the chance of transmission, so if you do find a tick, follow these directions to ensure proper removal.
- Test the tick. There are many labs that will identify and test ticks. Some labs offer a free service where you can send in a photo of the tick and they will identify what type of tick it is, if it’s male or female and how long it was likely to have been attached. That should be step one, but more important is step two, which is having the tick itself tested. There are several labs that do this and some are free if you live in the state where the lab is, like this lab in Pennsylvania.
- Get prophylactic treatment. Ticks can carry and transmit several other dangerous and hard-to-treat bacteria and parasites. Upon testing, most ticks are shown to carry at least one pathogen, which is why I am a proponent (as most Lyme doctors are) of prophylactic treatment (treating the bite) while you wait for the tick test results. Read Lyme ND, Julia Greenspan’s, very important article about how she handles and treats tick bites and acute Lyme.
Many people will visit their doctor for advice on what to do upon finding an attached tick or seeing a bull’s eye rash. Unfortunately, often times, patients are misguided at these appointments. It’s incredibly important to know the facts and be your own advocate:
- Conventional wisdom says that it takes 24 hours or longer for a tick to transmit the disease through a bite; however, evidence suggests it may occur over a much shorter span of time. More importantly it’s impossible to know, for sure, when the tick attached, so don’t let anyone convince you that you’re not at risk.
- Treating the infection with too short a round of antibiotics, or the wrong dosage, may not eradicate the infection and could lead to a chronic infection in the weeks, months or years to follow. Read Lyme ND, Julia Greenspan’s, very important article about how she handles and treats tick bites and acute Lyme.
- Doctors may suggest testing you for Lyme disease shortly after you’ve found and removed it. Unfortunately, Lyme disease tests are highly especially right after a tick was removed. Additionally, ticks generally carry more than one pathogen, putting you at risk for multiple tick borne illnesses. Testing the tick is a much better approach.
- The bull’s eye rash is definitive for Lyme disease, but less than half of those who develop Lyme disease recall having the rash. While the bull’s eye rash is what most people look for, it can vary considerably in its presentation. If you had the rash NO test is required. The bull’s eye rash IS your positive test.
- Treatment guidelines for all stages of Lyme, including prophylactic treatment can be found on page 19 of the downloable PDF “Diagnostic Hints and Treatment Guidelines for Lyme and Other Tick Borne Illnesses,” written by Lyme expert, Dr. Joseph Burrascano.
- There is a small window of opportunity to treat the infection so that it’s completely eradicated, so you need to be your own advocate and be in charge of your own healthcare.
If you are not satisfied with your doctors suggestions or reaction or they refuse to consider the ILADS treatment guidelines get a second opinion. Consider the risk-benefit ratio of taking antibiotics versus the potential of getting infected with Lyme and other tick-borne illness and find a Lyme literate doctor. A Lyme disease support group facilitator can point you in the right direction. Lyme specialists are few and far between and finding one who will treat the acute infection may be an out of pocket expense.
If you feel you can’t afford it, know that whatever the cost is, it’ll be a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of treating chronic Lyme in the future. Borrow money from friends or family if you have to but be sure you get the proper treatment early on so you can prevent the illness from becoming chronic.
Also read our related article, Prevention is Our Best Defense Against Lyme Disease and check out our resources page for reputable website and book suggestions.
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