published Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Roberts: Reasons to avoid tick bites multiply


by Dalton Roberts

One thing wrong with writing on medical topics is that you can never cover a subject in one column, and you always get a lot of feedback from readers you feel you should share.

When I wrote last week on tick bites, I knew this would happen, but there has been such an increase in bites with serious consequences, well, I just felt I should warn people.

I got a half-dozen scary notes from people who had suffered severe consequences from bites. One was a horror story where a parent waded around in medical purgatory for six years before even getting a diagnosis.

In particular, I think I should share a letter from Mack McCord, who got so sick after a bite that he says, "I texted friends and relatives and told them I was going to die. I don't even remember sending the text messages. I couldn't even get out of bed."

Strangely, these severe symptoms don't always appear for two to three years when Lyme disease is in full bloom. It seems to depend on how well the early antibiotics work at the beginning of the disease cycle. But even if they work well, you may not have some of these symptoms for a couple of years.

Mack is adamant that "after any tick bite you should see your doctor immediately to be started on a 30-day treatment of doxycycline." He says, "This is the only antibiotic that can counter the effects of a tick-borne virus."

Since it often takes a while for Lyme disease to manifest, it is important to know what the symptoms are. The first one is a bull's-eye ring around the site of the tick bite. But the ring does not always appear.

The next symptom is an illness similar to the flu. The next stage is Bell's palsy episodes with a drooping of face muscles. Full seizures can follow, but remember that all the symptoms may not occur.

In writing the original column on tick bites, my primary concern was the lackadaisical attitude of so many people about getting the ticks to turn loose and back out of the body. "Just put a glob of petroleum jelly on it, and it will turn loose" or one of the other simplistic solutions.

I did not know how dangerous most of them are due to the tick's tendency to regurgitate its poisons while turning loose. I think I listed the safest ways to get the tick out (Tic-off and tick tweezers).

We have talked a lot about Lyme disease, but you need to be aware that ticks can also cause: anaplasmosis, babessiosis (or parasites), ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Southern tick-associated rash illness, tick-borne relapsing fever, tularemia and powassan encephalitis.

As one reader pointed out, "There are some things one can do to prevent tick bites, like showering when you have been outside -- using a handheld or full-length mirror to view all parts of the body. Treat boots, clothing and camping gear with permethrin."

If you have pets, be sure to regularly consult your veterinarian about preventing your pets from bringing ticks into the home.

This has scared me well enough that I have placed "tick management" near the top of my health goals.

Email Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com.

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