I never thought about Lyme Disease as a child. We lived in a rural area and I was a little bit of a tomboy; always outdoors. I would hike, ride horses, climb trees, and every summer got my fair share of poison ivy and tick bites.
When I was younger, my mother would inspect me after I was outside all day, but as I grew older I handled the job myself. I was 11 when I missed a tick that had bitten my back. I couldn’t even feel it biting me because it had attached itself to a large scar I had from surgery. The skin there was numb.
How Do You Get Lyme Disease?
According to the CDC, Lyme Disease is spread most often by small ticks. In general, a tick must be attached for a period of 36-48 hours before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted. These tiny ticks are harder to spot than a large tick which is normally removed before the disease can spread. Not all ticks carry Lyme disease and only certain areas of the country are at risk. The ticks that carry Lyme disease are the black legged tick or deer tick in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and north central United States. The western, black-legged tick spreads the disease on the Pacific coast.
I remember feeling like I had the flu. I got fever and chills and my muscles ached. Lyme disease in early stages, at least in my experience really mimic’s a nasty flu. My mom put me in bed and I got the regular treatment for the flu. I stayed in bed, watched cartoons, and slept. It was about a week later when my mom got really worried. She said my lymph nodes felt swollen too and I needed to go to the doctors office. She was helping me with my shirt when she noticed the tick. Apparently it was pretty big. It had to have been stuck for about a week. A deep scar can leave you completely numb at the scar site. My mom removed the tick and told me I had a large rash surrounding the bite. She actually took the tick to the doctors office in her favorite Tupperware. Gotta love moms, right? The symptoms I experienced aren’t the only symptoms of Lyme disease. People who aren’t treated can develop swelling and pain in the joints, headaches and neck stiffness, Bell’s Palsy, and even shooting pains that interfere with sleep. If you think you may have been exposed to Lyme disease, ask your doctor about testing. After testing positive for Lyme Disease, I was treated with antibiotics and sent home to recover. I didn’t even have to stay in the hospital. I don’t have any long term negative effects from Lyme Disease.
According to the CDC, 10 to 20 percent of patient who are treated with antibiotics will have lingering pain, stiffness of the joints, and fatigue that lasts over six months. People who aren’t aware that they’ve been exposed to Lyme disease may attribute their symptoms to something else entirely. The test for Lyme disease isn’t fool proof. It simply detects the antibodies that your body produces to fight off the bacteria. What that means is that you could be completely rid of the bacteria but the antibodies can still be present months or even years later.
I was treated fairly quickly for Lyme disease as a child. I haven’t noticed any lingering side effects. It felt like a really bad flu; when you get achy all over and have sporadic fever and chills. I’m sure that having untreated Lyme disease or a case of Lyme disease untreated for a long period of time, could be much worse.
Preventing Lyme Disease:
If you’re an outdoors type person, you are probably going to be bitten by a tick at some point in your life. There are precautions you can take. I always spray Deep Woods Off on myself and my children. Ticks are usually more active in the spring and summer months. If I’m going into a heavily wooded area, I wear pants and hiking boots. I also treat our camping gear and clothing with something called Permethrin. This repels ticks and even stays active for many washes. Just remember, it usually takes 36-48 hours to contract Lyme disease. Always check young children yourself, have your husband/wife look at the places you can’t see. If it’s embarrassing to you; just ask yourself whether you would rather be a little embarrassed or contract Lyme disease. If you have scars, actually look at them because you may not feel a tick biting on scar tissue.