Lyme Disease Prevention Part 2: What To Do If You Get Bit

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Preventing Lyme Disease and Other Tick-Born Illnesses

As we transition into the summer months and increase our outdoor activities, it is easy to forget about the need to protect ourselves and our families from a common but serious health threat: Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.

Thankfully, as discussed in the previous article Lyme Disease Prevention Part 1: How to Avoid Getting Bit” (as outlined by Dr. Myriah Hinchey, Lyme Literate Naturopathic Doctor, Founder/Medical Director of Tao Vitality LLC, and co-founder of LymeCore Botanicals) there are practical and simple ways to reduce the chances of getting bit and subsequently contracting Lyme disease and other co-infections that can have damaging long-term effects. And if you do get bit, taking proactive measures to quickly address a potential or active infection can be done using proven natural methods, often in conjunction with more conventional approaches.  

When Prevention Fails: How to Remove a Tick

With Covid-19 concerns still lingering for an undetermined amount of time, optimizing health is on everyone’s mind. Time outside getting adequate sunshine/vitamin D, fresh air, and exercise are vital to immune function and overall well-being, but what do we do if preventative measures for Lyme fail and we suddenly find a tick embedded in our skin?

There is a much better chance of avoiding acute and chronic Lyme disease if the tick is removed properly, if the pathogenic status of the tick is determined through testing, and if preventative measures are taken and symptoms are identified effectively within a critical time period after getting bit.

This approach can help to prevent an active infection and determine a treatment protocol should the tick contain the Lyme disease-causing bacterial spirochete, borrelia burgdorferi, and/or other co-infections.  Important recommendations to follow if you get a tick bite include:

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NOT JUST LYME DISEASE: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT NEW TICK SPECIES AND THE DISEASES THEY CARRY

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Viruses, bacteria, bugs, oh my…. pathogens that wreak havoc on our lives seems to be the topic on everyone’s mind these days. While we’re so busy dealing with COVID, it’s easy to forget about a major silent pandemic – tick-borne illnesses – that are having an increasing impact on our health.

Lyme disease, the most recognized and common tick-related infection caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, is acknowledged in the mainstream health conversation as a pervasive threat with nearly 30,000 reported cases annually and an incidence higher than breast cancer (5). Unfortunately, new findings indicated that not only do we have to worry about Lyme, we have to consider the other multiple co-infections can be transmitted alone or in addition to borrelia, which are also on the rise. Especially as people spend more time outdoors amidst months of quarantine, Lyme and various tick-related diseases have increased as well, also complicating coronavirus pandemic detection issues in some areas such as NY state and Michigan (5).

Is it COVID…or Lyme?

Lyme disease is a multisystem illness referred to as “the great imitator”, many times with a classic bullseye rash, flu-like symptoms, and myriad symptoms replicating conditions associated with numerous other diseases and health-impaired states, ranging from cardiac to neurological to rheumatic illnesses (5).  As if we don’t have enough to worry about with COVID, more less-known tick-associated diseases are not only confusing proper diagnoses related to vector-borne illnesses, they are actually mimicking COVID symptoms in many areas. Residents in various parts of the country (such as Michigan) are seeing a growing number of anaplasmosis infection cases increase, with flu-like symptoms that easily cause COVID concern.

According to the CDC (3), anaplasmosis, caused by the bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum and transmitted from the black-legged and the western black-legged tick, is one of the main Lyme and COVID mimickers. Symptoms are typically seen 1-5 days after being bit and can include typical symptoms such as(1).

  • Skin rash
  • Fatigue
  • Fever, chills
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite

Early detection and prompt treatment are necessary to avoid severe illness that can lead to long-term debilitating damage to joints, the heart, and the nervous system, as well as death.

Like with COVID (or any other illness), having underlying health conditions, an already-compromised immune system, and being older can all increase the risk of illness severity (3).

Anaplasmosis cases have been slowly rising since the year 2000, with peak months in the summer and later fall, including October and November. Geographically, the northeast and upper midwestern regions of the US suffer from the most anaplasmosis cases, but it has also been documented in newer regions such as Michigan, New York, and Virginia, and throughout the country where the black-legged tick has spread (3).

Additionally, the other various ticks and insects that carry the Borrelia bacteria causing Lyme Disease and co-infections are important to be aware of as we look for ways to protect ourselves and our families from biological threats. 

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2021 Lyme Disease Prevention Part 1: How to Avoid Getting Bit

 What can you do to keep you and your family safe this spring without having to worry about quarantining inside the house as well?

Protecting Your Yard From Ticks

Some basic tips start with protecting your yard with sprays such as permethrin, pyrethrum, and cedar oil, as well as landscaping strategies to reduce tick colonies in dark, wet areas. Keeping leaves clear, grass and tree branches trimmed to allow full sun exposure, using cedar mulch, planting chrysanthemums, removing bird feeders, being mindful of stone walls, and using other resources like "tick tubes", bait boxes, and having free-range chickens or guinea hens can all help to reduce the tick population at home. Additionally, for those with pets, using collars, Spectra Shield, and natural sprays such as Wondercide can help keep ticks from adhering to dogs and cats and entering the home.

"Tick Checks" & Basic Prevention Steps

There are also some basic recommendations to keep all members of your family safe from ticks embedding themselves on the body. First and foremost, it is essential to make "tick checks" a routine practice when a family member enters the home from any outdoor activity, especially when children come in from playing in the yard or on a playground.

Phyisical Barriers Are Effective Against Ticks

Implementing physical barriers is very effective as well to prevent ticks from attaching to the body. Wearing light-colored clothing, tucking pants into socks, shirts into pants, putting gloves over long-sleeved shirts, pulling hair back, and using hats with bug netting are all useful first-line-defense strategies. Spraying products containing non-toxic cedar oil on oneself and clothing can add another layer of safety. Specially treated clothing items with Insect Shield lasts up to 70 washes, and using DEET/permethrin may be helpful, but is recommended to be used on the soles of shoes only due to its level of toxicity.

Above all, the most proactive and protective measure against the effects of Lyme Disease is to minimize systemic inflammation and boost your immune system on an ongoing basis.

Proper nutrition is essential, for both adults and children.

Eliminating refined sugar, processed foods, artificial ingredients, and pro-inflammatory, reactive foods (such as gluten and dairy) are key. Consuming ample phytonutrients and polyphenols found in organic fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, clean proteins, legumes, nuts and seeds, and naturally gluten-free grains and starches offer a good diversity of nutrients. Supplementing with EPA/DHA, vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, and probiotics for a healthy microbiome are also essential. Drinking ample filtered water, limiting toxic factors in the home and personal care products, managing stress and engaging in daily stress-reduction practices, and getting adequate exercise, sleep, rest, and play are also necessary. Additionally, a variety of immune-enhancing herbs such as Andrographis, Astragalus, Cat's Claw, and Lyme Nosode can all be effective if there has been increased tick exposure. Like any other pathogenic threat, whether it be viral or bacterial (as in the Borrelia Burgdorferi bacteria that causes Lyme), cultivating a foundation of health will decrease the severity of the infection and subsequent disease progression.

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