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Lyme Disease and Tick Borne Diseases: Early Detection and Prevention Tips

Disclaimer :: I am not a medical professional, and the information and opinions presented in this article are based on my experience and personal research and not of FWMB or CMBN.  

Nine years ago I was bitten by a mysterious bug while sleeping at a lake house in Texas. Less than 48 hours later, a mysterious rash developed at the site of the bite, and I made my way to the emergency room. “Must be a spider bite,” was the assumption, and I was given antibiotics and steroids and sent on my way with the directive to return if it got any worse. Two days later, with an ever-growing rash and onset of flu-like symptoms, I returned to the emergency room. This time they administered IV antibiotics and a steroid cream for the rash. I had to return one more time before the rash started to disappear. The flu-symptoms lingered but eventually went away. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.  

Remember that “spider bite” with the “mysterious rash”? Yep, you guessed it: that was Lyme Disease all along. Lyme Disease is very curable if treated within 4-6 weeks of exposure with appropriate antibiotics. However, once it becomes established in your body, it starts to hide. Once it hides, it’s nearly impossible to fully eradicate. 

On top of Lyme Disease, there are several other tick-borne diseases present in North Texas that can be transmitted through a tick bite. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tularemia are both transmitted through a bite from a tick as well. 

I feel a sense of responsibility to equip my fellow mommas with some early detection tips along with some easy prevention suggestions. It is my hope that, if you tuck this information into the back of your mind, you and your loved ones will be spared from living with Lyme or other tick borne illnesses. 

Early Detection and Treatment Is Crucial

If you develop any of the following symptoms after being bit by a tick or other insect, seek medical attention immediately. 

  • Bull’s eye rash: This the most common way to detect early Lyme. The rash typically begins at the site of the bite, is flat, and may be warm to the touch. It can appear anywhere between 2-30 days after exposure and will last anywhere from 1-7 days. Most Lyme rashes have the classic bull’s eye appearance, but others may experience an “atypical” rash that differs from the bull’s eye pattern. Only an estimated 50-70 percent of people infected with Lyme will develop the rashVisit here for a picture library of various Lyme rashes. 
  • Flu-like symptoms: Symptoms that arise 2-30 days after a tick bite (or mosquito bite in Texas) can indicate Lyme or RMSF exposure. These symptoms include sudden onset of fever, headache, achy muscles and joints, and fatigue. If experiencing a high, sudden onset fever, immediate medical attention is necessary as this could indicate possible Rocky Mountain Fever exposure. 
  • Bell’s Palsy (sudden facial muscle weakness or paralysis).
  • Severe headaches or neck stiffness.
  • Joint pain.
  • Painful, swollen lymph nodes
  • Extreme exhaustion and/or trouble sleeping. 
  • “Cat Scratch” rash (this often indicates Bartonella).

If you suspect that you or a loved one has been exposed to Lyme Disease, contact the Texas Lyme Disease Association for a list of Lyme Literate Doctors in your area.  

Prevention Is Easy

When playing outdoors, prevention is key! Use these prevention tips to keep the whole family safe. 

  • Bug spray is essential! Whether you choose to use a spray with Deet or you opt for an all natural or essential-oil based spray, cover all exposed areas, including your hair. You can lightly spray your clothing as well. 
  • Cover up! If you will be exploring in areas that are dense with trees or brush, wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, and close-toed shoes. Want extra protection? Wear a hat as well. Ticks love your scalp! 
  • Perform tick checks after being in wooded and thick grassy areas. Pay close attention to the under arms, in and around the ears, the scalp, inside your belly button, back of the knees, between the legs, and around the waist. 
  • While walking in the woods or in dense grass/weeds, carry a lint brush with you. Every 20-30 minutes do a quick sweep of your clothing and shoes. You will be amazed what you pick up!
  • If a tick is found, safely remove with a fine-tip tweezers. Do not twist and do not cover the tick with any substance. This may cause the tick to regurgitate the contents of its stomach, increasing exposure risk. SAVE THE TICK and send in for testing and receive results in 72 hours. 

Remember, risks are everywhere. Yes, tick borne diseases are something to be aware of, but do not let that scare you! Simply be wise, be aware, and seek help when the need arises.

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