Lyme Disease is easier to catch than you might think. One little bite from a tick (a blood sucking parasite that preys on many animals, who’s bite you may not even notice) is all it takes. I grew up in West Virginia, a land filed with mountains and brush and animals. It’s also full of ticks that feed on the white-tail deer population that calls West Virginia home.
When I was 13 I was a rough and tumble, shaggy haired, all American boy. Growing up, it was a relatively easy task to find me. I was either in the creek catching minnows and crawdads, or running around in the woods, climbing trees and generally running wild. It was a great time (and place) to be a kid, and I loved every minute of it.
The summer vacation of my seventh grade year was shaping up to be a great one. I was growing with leaps and bounds, and when my older brother said he was going to take me camping with him and his friends that summer, I felt like I was finally one of the “big kids”. “This” I thought, “was going to be awesome.”
The Fateful Trip
A few days after the start of summer break, my brother came in and announced that the camping trip was happening that weekend. I gathered my sleeping bags and camping equipment days ahead of time. I kept a faithful watch on the clock, counting down the seconds until we left for the woods. The morning of the trip, I could barely contain my glee.
Once we hit the mountain, I was in Heaven. We listened to music, played games, laughed a lot, and told stories. It was the best. But a few days into the trip, I reached down to scratch my leg and discovered a tick.
“No big deal” I thought. And to me, it wasn’t a big deal. I grew up surrounded by forest. I’d had a tick before. My brother removed it, and al was fine. Or at least, I thought it was fine.
Until the symptoms started.
A Trip to the Doctor
After about a week or so of returning from the trip, I started to feel bad. I had a fever, and a bad headache to go along with it. I also found a rash at the site of the bite, and felt tired though I was well rested. Mom thought I had the flu, and we made a trip to see our family doctor.
My doctor, after the initial examination also thought I had the flu. But before I left his office, I made an off hand remark about my “tick bite being a little warm and puffy”. “Tick bite?” the doctor inquired. I showed him the spot, and he said “Hmm…” and left me alone for a minute to speak with my parents.
A few minutes later, he came back into the room and asked me about my camping trip. I gave him all the details, and he told me he wanted to do a few tests and drew some blood. A few days later I had my diagnosis: Lyme Disease.
The doctor said I was lucky; The Lyme Disease had been caught very early, and a round of antibiotic pills were prescribed. The doctor told me that in cases like mine, the round of antibiotics (taken orally) would most likely cure me. And he was right, after the pills the fever and headaches went away, I had my old energy levels back, and the rash went away pretty quickly.
The doctor also told me that other people are not so lucky. In cases where the disease wasn’t caught soon (or at all, in some cases), patients suffered from joint pain and arthritis, heart troubles, and a host neurological problems.
I was indeed one of the lucky ones; I wouldn’t suffer through any of these possible problems associated with not catching the disease in time.
There are now vaccines available which do a great job of immunizing against lime disease, but without immunization the only real protection against Lyme Disease is vigilance. If you’re in an area known to have ticks (such as in the woods or a park with a lot of trees, brush, and grass), check yourself, your family and friends, and pets for ticks. Check often.
Make sure to use insect repellants to help keep the ticks, and other pests, at bay.
Check in the hair, in clothing, under arms, and on the head, and check your pets all over. If you do happen to find a tick, carefully remove it. Keep tabs on the bite area, and if you get a rash (sometimes it can look like a bullseye, but it may not) or any other symptoms like fatigue, headaches, and fever, get to a doctor. Early detection of Lyme Disease is important if you want to avoid life-long and possibly debilitating effects of the disease.
Avoiding Lyme Disease can be accomplished with a simple injection or a little preventative maintenance can help you live a long and healthy life.