Tiny ticks can be a big problem!
May is Lyme disease awareness month and in recent weeks I have received numerous inquiries on what to do following a tick bite. The tick population is predicted to be unusually high in the northeast this spring and with folks finding ticks on themselves after merely standing on their mowed lawns, the cause for deep concern is valid. At this point in time in Southern Vermont, approximately 60% of ticks carry at least one infection such as Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease), Bartonella, Babesia, Tularemia, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and in rare cases Powassan virus. While most publications and mainstream medicine cite infection transmission time as 36 hours after attachment, Powassan virus. which has a mortality rate of 20%, is transmitted in as little as 3 minutes so any tick bite is cause for concern.
So you have found a tick on yourself or on a family member. What to do
Take a photo of the embedded tick or the tick bite site after you have removed it. You will want this as documentation along with the date of the bite.
Remove the tick with some clean pointed tweezers by pulling the tick straight out from where it meets the skin. Do not squeeze the tick or put vaseline on it as extra manipulation means more bugs and pathogens being transmitted into your body. Put the tick in a ziplock bag with a damp Q-tip should you decide to send the tick out for infection testing or to show your doctor. The damp Q-tip will keep the tick viable for testing. See below for tick testing information.
Clean the bite and surrounding area with rubbing alcohol and cover with a band aid and antibiotic ointment.
Call your doctor and let them know that you discovered the tick and would like to be treated prophylactically for Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections (such as Bartonella, Erhlichia, and Anaplasma) for a minimum of 3 weeks with the antibiotic Doxycycline as recommended by the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS). If you indicate that you know the ramifications of untreated Lyme and tick borne illness you might have a better chance of convincing your doctor to prescribe you antibiotics. Mainstream doctors and practitioners are still treating according to the Infectious Disease Society guidelines which recommends a single, two capsule prophylactic dose of Doxycycline. This is proving to be ineffective in preventing illness. Three weeks minimum is optimal.
Your doctor may tell you to simply watch and wait to see if symptoms occur. In other words, they are letting you potentially get very sick and surpass the window of time when Lyme and co-infections can be fully eradicated. Arming yourself with a book such as How Can I Get Better, by Dr. Richard Horowitz, could help you to state your case for 20-30 days of prophylactic treatment more effectively; link is below.
If you are comfortable watching and waiting, keep an eye out for any unusual symptoms for you. Symptoms do not need to be clear-cut flu-like symptoms or joint pains. When I was finally diagnosed with Lyme, babesia, and bartonella after 4 years of many severe symptoms and organ dysfunction, I had never had a joint pain and many never get them. If you end up watching and waiting, and or perhaps you've taken the 2 prophylactic Doxycycline that many doctors prescribe these days, having the awareness that you could end up with Lyme disease is half the battle so it will be okay. Just keep track and notice and changes in your health in the coming months.
Also keep a vigilant eye out for a bullseye rash (erythema migrans rash). This rash, which only appears in about 40% of lyme cases, is 100% indicative of Lyme disease. You do not need a test, you definitely have it. The bullseye rash can be as small as a dime or large and very pale. Occasionally there are multiple bullseye rashes that are very faint in color. Any rash is cause for concern following a tick bite. Take photos of anything unusual. A bullseye rash needs to be treated for 6-8 weeks with antibiotics and once symptomatic, treatment needs to continue until symptom free plus an additional 2 months. Some doctors are still telling patients that the bullseye rash is not definitive for lyme disease. It is, and it requires immediate and thorough treatment.
Get some probiotics and start taking them if you don’t already. A healthy microbiome means greater immunity and you must take probiotics when taking antibiotics as antibiotics kill infectious organisms as well as the healthy, beneficial organisms in our digestive tracts that keep us balanced. Take probiotics that include acidophilus and bifidobacteria. A health food store can help you choose a good quality probiotic, CVS and Rite Aid carry a few, and the internet offers a huge variety.
If you are not comfortable watching and waiting, a functional medicine doctor, Naturopath, or Lyme specialist is your next best bet. Look online for local naturopaths or functional medicine doctors, or consult the website ILADS, link below, for a Lyme specialist near you. Or, speak with someone like me that can help you locate a Lyme literate practitioner.
Tick testing: if you choose to watch and wait following a tick bite, you might want to get the tick tested for infections. Some helpful links regarding tick testing are here:
General Lyme disease and Lyme literate physician links:
The latest book written by renowned Lyme specialist Dr. Richard Horowitz (my doc), How Can I get Better. This book is an excellent resource for all things Lyme, co-infections, and chronic illness. This book includes a symptom checklist and treatment regimens that you can discuss with your doctor.
Information from this post is taken from http://www.ilads.org