As April showers bring May flowers, ticks start looking for an early summer brunch! That’s right, as summer emerges Lyme disease becomes more prevalent. You might want to think twice before prancing through those tall grass fields this season. Lyme disease could be a bite in your back!
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is the number 1 tick-borne illness in North America and Europe. Even though its hard to pronounce, the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi is to blame. Anything with a name like that cant be good, can it? Most commonly, Lyme disease is contracted through a tick bite somewhere outdoors. Most people who are diagnosed can recount a recent time and place where they probably had contracted the disease. Lyme disease is highly treatable if caught early, but if it stays untreated it may spread to the heart, tendons, and nervous system. As a pharmacist I see prescriptions for treatment for Lyme disease start to increase in the spring and remain increased through summer.
How do you get it?
Last June I started playing Frisbee with friends on the weekends. We always played in a nearby open field with lots of space. Of course, this space had tons of grass and most likely, lots of those blood sucking ticks. A few days later I noticed a rash on my leg and immediately knew I had to get myself checked out. Bulls-eye type rashes are typical of Lyme disease and my rash looked like a textbook example. Another symptom I was having was a feeling of being worn out. A typical symptom of early onset Lyme disease is tiredness. The doctor confirmed my suspicions, I had Lyme disease. All he needed were my symptoms and a glance at the rash.
Lyme disease is typically treated with antibiotics. Most often, a 2 week course of an antibiotic called doxycycline is prescribed. Amoxicillin may also be used. With any antibiotic treatment, there are slight side effects you must endure. Doxycycline is especially hard on your stomach and causes nausea in some patients. Taking medications with food may help decrease stomach upset in most patients. Since its impractical to list all side effects in this short article, please discuss treatment specifics with your doctor or pharmacist. Personally, I had little side effects from the doxycycline treatment plan other than slight stomach upset the first 2 days. As your body gets used to fighting the infection, side effects will slowly subdue.
Initially, the biggest struggle of Lyme disease was the fatigue. Even after a full 8 hours of sleep, your body feels like its only had about 4! Getting up to go to work was more difficult than you may think. Some patients also receive a fever, but I did not encounter any fever. After a week of antibiotic treatment, the tiredness subsided, and I was back to my normal self! For now on, I’ll be wearing tube socks while playing Frisbee!
As the summer approaches, don’t let Lyme disease become an issue. Take common sense approaches to prevent tick bites this season. Wear tall socks in open fields and check yourself and others for ticks bites. If a rash occurs, be sure to get checked out by your physician! All, in all, don’t let a bulls-eye bite stop your activities this season!
Source: Center for Disease Control (CDC)