The picture above is a picture of Isaac's back. Despite daily tick checks, Isaac obviously had one that we didn't find (or at least we didn't find it quick enough), and JB has now diagnosed him with Lyme Disease.
When JB told me that the rash we had been watching was consistent with Lyme Disease, I had a momentary period of freaking out. However, my husband spent some time educating me, and I quickly came to understand that a lot of what I feared about the disease was due to misinformation. Doctors generally do not fear this disease. But misinformed patients do.
Since I am a doctor's wife and was very misinformed about the condition, my thought is that many of you might be as well. I thought I would take a few moments in a blog post to share some facts for all of you -- so that you don't stay misinformed like me.
Firstly, Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in North America and Europe. Deer ticks, which feed on the blood of animals and humans, can harbor the bacteria and spread it when feeding. Dog ticks, which are much more common in TN, do not carry the disease.
Only a minority of deer tick bites leads to Lyme disease. The longer the tick is on you, the higher your chances.
You are definitely more likely to get Lyme if you live or spend time in grassy and heavily wooded areas where ticks carrying the disease thrive. (Like our new farm!) It's important to take common sense precautions. We have done this. If our kids go out into the woods on our farm, they wear long pants and tuck them into their socks. Grama Joni sent us a bunch of lint rollers which we use to roll up and down the kids clothes before they come into our house to try to catch any ticks right away. We also give them baths that day and do full body checks for the little buggers.
We are also getting guinea fowl here on the farm which are huge lovers of ticks and will eat the fire out of them! This will hopefully cut down a bit on ticks. Many people also simply advise not going in the woods until it is colder out. While I agree with this sentiment, we don't want our kiddos to spend half the year avoiding hiking so we hope to instead implement techniques to prevent them from sticking around if they do get on us.
Despite all the precautions, ticks can obviously still find their way into our skin and one of your kids can still get Lyme. Only the minority of deer tick bites leads to Lyme disease. Any tick bite can cause Lyme, but the longer they stay on your body, the higher your chances are.
Nine out of 10 cases of Lyme involve the telltale rash (pictured above on Isaac's lower back) which doctors call erythema migrans. It's characterized by a red ring surrounding normal looking skin. The rash can vary in size, shape, and color. Sometimes it itches or burns, but not always. It typically appears at or near the site of the tick bite one or two weeks after the bite.
If a person is treated with appropriate antibiotics in the early stage of the disease, they are very likely to recover completely. In later stages, response to treatment may be slower but the majority of people with Lyme disease recover completely with appropriate treatment.
There are some people who obviously have terrible experiences with Lyme disease. I liken this to any disease or illness. Most people who got chicken pox when we were children, recovered with little to no problems. But some people got very, very sick. Most people who have an ear infection, respond immediately to antibiotics. But others may have additional complications pop up.
Another truth about Lyme disease surrounds the life of all medical conditions when coupled with Google and the Internet. You cannot believe everything you read online. Any person on the computer can attribute their health issues to Lyme disease, when in fact they may have never had the condition. Some people claim to have "chronic" Lyme disease even though the blood test commonly used to test for the disease found no evidence of infection. This blood test is extremely reliable, and there is therefore a good chance that these individuals did not ever in fact have Lyme disease but have simply begun to believe they did based on what Google has told them.
(Don't even get my husband or his doctor friends started on the things people claim based on one thing they read online.)
Another truth is that some Lyme patients do develop fatigue and have trouble thinking straight. But in most cases this is the result of a transient condition that actually occurs with many infectious diseases. True brain infection with Lyme is exceedingly rare and treated with antibiotics.
Though Lyme advocacy groups often cite cases in which people with Lyme disease have died, there is almost no evidence to suggest Lyme disease is the culprit. Lyme is actually relatively benign. Unlike many other bacterial infections, patients rarely require intensive care of even hospitalization. This does not mean that people have not had very difficult things occur as the result of Lyme. It does, however, mean that this is the exception, the 1%, not the 99%.
In Isaac's case, all he has is a rash, and you actually do not even do a blood test if you have the rash, live in an endemic area (TN definitely is), and especially if you have seen ticks on you recently. You simply do a 14-day course of antibiotics and it usually clears up with little-to-no issues.
So there you have it.
Consider yourself educated.
Also, if you have kind, honest questions, please, as always, feel free to post them, and I'll have my husband answer them. :)
For more information on ticks, click here to view Mayo Clinic's ABC's of Tick prevention.