Paramedic’s Corner: Tracking the ticks to stop Lyme Disease (part 2)
By: Ambulance Director Gary Carmack
Posted: Monday, June 15, 2009 11:52 am
Ambulance Director Gary Carmack
Following the first part of this two-part article, I received some comments from readers that the hallmark clinical sign of Lyme Disease wasn’t present when they got Lyme Disease.
This is in reference to the change in skin color with central clearing causing the so-called “bull’s eye.” In medical terms, this rash is called “erythema migrans.” It is a circular rash that continues to grow. In many cases, this rash is lacking, and the lack of the rash can cause a misdiagnosis.
Most tick fever patients have flu-type symptoms such as fatigue, malaise, headache, muscle aches, joint pain and sometimes a rash. The problem is that if left untreated, the results can be serious or even fatal for the patient. The best advice I can give is if you get a tick bite and begin to get sick, see your physician immediately and tell her or him that you feel sick and had a tick bite. Raising the awareness level is what this article is about.
Part one last week ended with descriptions of stages one and two of Lyme Disease. The third or late stage is a state of persistent infection, which can occur months or years after initial exposure. This can have the same serious neurological complications as the second stage, however, the patient may also develop encephalopathy (an abnormal condition of the structure or function of the brain) with defects in mental ability, loss of memory, depression, and sleep disorders. The patient might have tremendous large joint problems and this can appear in more than one joint (polyarthritis).
Besides awareness, the next important point of this article is to alert people to prevention strategies.
The first thing to remember is screening for ticks. Do a complete body check if you have been in an area with potential for ticks. Check children carefully, and be sure and check in the hair as well as on exposed skin.
If you find a tick, remove it immediately. Do not try old remedies like smothering the tick or burning it. Just firmly grasp the tick, using fine-tipped tweezers if needed, and pull the tick in a steady motion out of your skin. Then wash the area with soap and water.
The second preventative strategy is to use insect repellent. I use repellent with DEET. Whichever product you use, be sure and follow the directions carefully.
To summarize: to protect yourself and your family from Lyme Disease, be sure and see your doctor if you have flu-like symptoms following a tick bite, especially if a rash, fatigue, or any arthritis-type pain is present. Arthritis develops in about 60 percent of patients within weeks to months, and sometimes up to two years after an infection. Also, be proactive by careful screening for ticks and using repellents with DEET, following the directions very carefully.