LYME DISEASE – OR HOW I GOT SICK FROM A TICK

This is not an official, medical review of Lyme disease. This isn’t even an unofficial review.

This is just about some of the things I already knew and some of the things I have recently learned as I’ve very uncharacteristically slept my way through the past couple days watching reruns of House Hunters International and a documentary on Ride the Divide – the bike race that goes from Banff, Canada to Mexico.

Back a generation or so, no one had heard of Lyme disease – but it was around. In fact, Reverend Walker, who lived back in the 1700s on an island off Scotland, wrote a detailed description of Lyme disease – except, not having heard of Lyme, Connecticut, he  wrote instead of being bitten by a tick-like bug and developing all the symptoms of Lyme.

During the early 1970s, however, an outbreak of sickness in the Lyme, Connecticut area caused researchers to research and figure out what was going on.  Lucky them, they now have a disease named after their town. (That must help the tourist market.)

Lyme disease is just one of several tick-borne diseases and the most common. The scary thing about this disease is (like most diseases), if you don’t catch it in time, it can be quite serious with ongoing fatigue (some people never quite shake it), neurological problems, heart problems and even total paralysis (in a few cases).  Let’s just say, you don’t want to ignore the symptoms.

When I went up north a month ago, I knew about Lyme disease because my son and daughter-in-law are experts on the subject – being that their daughter – #2 up-north grandchild, contracted it a few years ago. They didn’t catch it right away (she was bitten in her ear – a common place for a bite), but did catch it quickly enough for it to be cured by antibiotics.

And so I did all those things you’re supposed to do – poured on the tick spray, watched for ticks, wore jeans and socks when traipsing through the woods, etc. I also kept checking my hair and my ears – no ticks.

I was already home when I felt a small bump on my lower back and when I scraped it, a tick came off in my hand. I didn’t panic because …

Not all ticks transfer Lyme disease, so just because  you pull a tick off of you, that doesn’t mean you’ll get Lyme. Also, the tick has to be attached for several hours (up to two days) before it affects the “victim.”

So, I watched the bite (I couldn’t see it without looking in the mirror).  After a few weeks, it went away and I figured I was disease free.

If you find a tick embedded – the advice is to have a doctor pull it out.  (In fact, the doctor  that treated me told me a very gross story about pulling out a tick on someone. You can be thankful I’m not sharing it.)

Still, I knew the next thing to look for was a red, bulls’eye-shaped rash – a circle with a clear spot and then another circle or a circle rash that is consistently red. Sunday morning, when taking my shower, I felt something weird – looked in the mirror and there was the bulls-eye!  (This took about 30 days to show up, which is common.) Other early symptons are flu-like – fever, muscle aches , etc. (The doctor told me that he sees a lot of ticks in the upper thigh, lower back area – because they crawl up people’s jeans – I know that sounds creepy – but it’s common to check out the hair and ears and not to pay attention to exposed skin.)

I knew I needed to get on antibiotics as soon as possible. So I headed for the walk-in clinic. The doctor instantly confirmed my self-diagnosis and put me on antibiotics for the next three weeks with a warning NOT to stop taking them early (which both the doctor and Jeff and Cindy told me is a common mistake).  I don’t take well too medicine so I’m thinking the meds are making me as sick as the Lyme’s,  but I know I have to do this.

Then on Monday morning when checking out the first bite, I realized I had a second inflammation on the other side of my body – another “bulls-eye.”  Not sure if the second is a manifestation of the first or a completely different tick bite. However, I figure the antibiotic “good guys” don’t know which target to hit,  so I’m fine.

So, I’m tired and the meds are making me feel weird, but I’m OK. I’m thankful I knew what to look for and what to do when I saw what it was I was looking for. If you do have a tick bite – keep a close eye on it. As soon as you see the red target rash – get to the doctor’s. Early detection and antibiotic treatment make all the difference.

Now, Jeff tells me that they’ve discovered that some people attract ticks more than others.

Not sure that makes me feel all that good –

That I’m attractive to a tick.

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