In deep preparation for our upcoming, fifth annual Midcoast Lyme Disease Support & Education conference, I’m resharing some very important information that you need to know as we enter into a more active tick season.
This is the No. 1 question that I get on a regular basis: “Help! I’ve been bit by a tick — now what do I do?” People who have had a tick encounter struggle to find the next step. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and disoriented by all the information you find on the internet, which is why when people reach out to me. I give them options.
Bringing down the fear factor is my main concern and giving people options gives them back control over their own health concerns, a potentially unnerving situation.
Here is the most common advice I give:
1) Save the tick! Even if it is in pieces, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s new tick testing lab can not only identify the tick that bit you but also any known pathogens that it may be carrying. Knowing what you’ve been exposed to is half the battle. In the early stages, without symptoms, if you test too soon and your body has not begun to produce antibodies, testing can be unreliable and give a false negative.
2) Boost your immune system! While waiting for tick testing results, there are lots of homeopathic remedies that are safe and available in your local natural foods store that can boost your immune system and help draw out infection. Ledum is a natural, homeopathic remedy and a highly effective defense against tick-borne diseases from a tick bite. It’s safe for all animals (dogs, cats, horses, etc.) and people – it’s all natural with zero side effects. Used in conjunction with bentonite clay made into a paste and applied to the tick bite, this draws out any surface infection before it can disseminate. You want to do this as soon as you can after a tick bite.
3) Seek medical attention! If the test results come back that you’ve been exposed to a potential tick-borne disease, seek a medical provider right away. Being proactive is well worth the time versus dealing with a tick-borne illness. Once your tick test comes back and you know what you’re dealing with, I encourage people to connect with a medical provider who is expertly trained and has a lot of experience with patient’s exposed to tick-borne diseases. You want a medical provider who is up-to-speed on the latest treatment guidelines and who has access to many forms of treatment support.
If you need help connecting to a Lyme literate provider, contact us! We are networked with over 250 medical providers all throughout the state of Maine, who are well-educated and experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne disease.
The 2018 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Health Information for International Travel (commonly called the Yellow Book) is published every two years as a reference for health professionals providing care to international travelers and is a useful resource for anyone interested in staying healthy abroad.
In chapter 3, “Infectious Diseases Related to Travel,” Dr. Paul Mead, chief of epidemiology and surveillance activity of the bacterial diseases branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention talks about contracting Lyme disease, how it manifests itself, and what treatment and prevention looks like. He further states that diagnosis and management are sometimes controversial and should be managed by those who have experience with this disease. That is because seeing a medical provider who understands the complexity of tick-borne disease understands that Lyme is a clinical diagnosis, that the current testing is unreliable, that it can present in many ways, and that a quick response is needed before infection disseminates.
It’s entirely up to you, but a delayed diagnosis is not something you want to mess around with. The longer an infection remains untreated, 1) the more it can spread to other parts of your body causing further damage, 2) the harder it can be to detect with testing, and 3) the longer it can take to fully treat.
So now, if you’re bitten by a tick, you are armed with knowledge of immediate steps to be taken and if you need additional support and direction, please visit our website, mldse.org. We have support resources available for every step of your journey back to health and wellness.
In less than two weeks, on April 26, we’ll be hosting the largest patient-centered Lyme disease event held on the East Coast. For more information, visit conference2019.mldse.org — and I hope to see you there!
(Paula Jackson Jones is the president and co-founder of Midcoast Lyme Disease Support & Education, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization; the Maine partner of the national Lyme Disease Association; and member of Maine CDC’s Vector-borne Disease Workgroup. She is active in Lyme legislation. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to mldse.org for more information.)