Christian Living

Healthy Living

Lyme Disease: What to Do

It was very painful for me to witness the destruction of a young and beautiful friend. Her body and mind were being attacked by a cruel predator that was finally diagnosed as Lyme Disease.

She was a vivacious hair stylist by trade. The symptoms began when she began experiencing numbness in her feet, a huge problem for a person who stands all day. The numbness became so bad that she had to stop working. Since she couldn't work, she could not longer afford housing, and moved back home with her parents.

Then it got worse. She began experiencing memory loss and other cognitive dysfunction, most often referred to as "brain fog." She spent months seeing different doctors and receiving several different diagnoses ranging from depression to lead poisoning.

Finally a physician specializing in infectious disease diagnosed her correctly: Lyme Disease.  Sadly, however, her Lyme Disease had progressed so far that she would be permanently handicapped as a result.

Her story is a warning for all of us to look for signs of Lyme Disease. If we find it early enough it is very easy to treat. My friend, on the other hand, was unaware of the signs.

A person gets Lyme Disease when they are bitten by a tick that has it. Ticks live in temperatures over 45 degrees. So if you are outside on a day that is that warm or warmer, check yourself, your family and your pets for ticks every day.

Ticks like "creases" so pay particular attention to the groin area, armpits, under the breasts, and other places that ticks might like to hide. Also make sure to check the scalp.

If you see a tick, don't panic. It takes 36 to 48 hours for a human to become infected. Make sure you get that tick out, though. The way to do that is to get a pair of tweezers, not the kind with ridges at the tip, the kind that are flat at the tip, and grab the tick's head, which will be partially submerged in your skin.

Remember, when a tick bites you, it keeps its head in your skin and just keeps sucking your blood (disgusting!). Pretty soon its body will get all swollen with your blood, so make sure you DO NOT GRAB ITS BODY, but rather its head, right up next to your skin. Gently pull it out. Don't try to suffocate it with lotion, or burn it with a match in order to get it to pull its head out on its own.

Once you get the tick out, watch the area. Go to the doctor if you see a rash. Usually it's a "bulls-eye" rash, but not always. That rash might occur anywhere from three to 30 days after you've been bitten. Also watch out for other symptoms such as headaches and aches in other parts of the body, such as joints and lymph glands.

If you do have Lyme Disease, it can be easily treated in its early stages with antibiotics. The key is catching it early.

Ways to prevent getting Lyme Disease are pretty common sense, such as:

• Dressing appropriately: Wear enclosed shoes and clothes with a tight weave. Also wear light-colored clothing so you can see ticks on your clothes more easily.

• Scan your clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks when you're outside. • If you're in a wooded area, try to stay on cleared, well-traveled trails.

• Use insect repellant containing DEET on skin or clothes if you intend to go off-trail or into overgrown area.

• Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls (havens for ticks and their hosts).

• Keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening.

• When you first go inside, dry your clothes on high for 20 minutes to kill any unseen ticks.

• Take a shower and shampoo your hair, but understand, that will remove any crawling ticks, but will not removed attached ticks.

Enjoy the great outdoors, but remember to be on guard for ticks and Lyme Disease. Early detection means no anxiety. It's only when we ignore the signs and symptoms that we have problems.