The Sounds of Advice #50: Lyme Disease



Today we are doing something a little different with the advice column. Today we will be talking about Lyme Disease. What it it is, how it's treated, and how to prevent it. 


1. What is Lyme Disease (Aisling):
Lyme disease causes a rash, often in a bull's eye pattern, and flu like symptoms such as fever, headaches and cold chills. Joint pain and weakness in the limbs can also occur.


Most people with Lyme disease recover completely with appropriate antibiotic treatment. For those who develop syndromes after their infection is treated, pain medications may provide relief from the symptoms.

2. Causes (Michaelle):
Lyme disease is caused by a bacterial infection passed through a tick bite. Some deer have a bacterium in their stomachs that should a tick bite them, the tick can pass the bacterium to humans through a bite on the skin. There have also been some cases reported of the same bacterium being passed through mosquito and spider bites as well, but it is primarily carried by ticks.


Some other factors that may make one more susceptible to Lyme disease are those with a weakened immune system, inhibited cellular function and protection, and systemic bacterial infection.

3. Treatment (Sandy):

Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) is one of the fast growing and most difficult to treat diseases in the world. If Lyme disease is detected early, it can be treated rather well with a course of antibiotics.

Two types of antibiotics can be used to treat Lyme disease.

Oral antibiotics. These are the standard treatment for early-stage Lyme disease. These usually include doxycycline for adults and children older than 8, or amoxicillin or cefuroxime for adults, younger children, and pregnant or breast-feeding women. A 14- to 21-day course of antibiotics is usually recommended, but some studies suggest that courses lasting 10 to 14 days are equally effective.

Intravenous antibiotics. If the disease involves the central nervous system, your doctor might recommend treatment with an intravenous antibiotic for 14 to 28 days. This is effective in eliminating infection, although it may take you some time to recover from your symptoms. Intravenous antibiotics can cause various side effects, including a lower white blood cell count, mild to severe diarrhea, or colonization or infection with other antibiotic-resistant organisms unrelated to Lyme.

After treatment, a small number of people still have some symptoms, such as muscle aches and fatigue. The cause of these continuing symptoms, known as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, is unknown, and treating with more antibiotics doesn't help. Some experts believe that certain people who get Lyme disease are predisposed to develop an autoimmune response that contributes to their symptoms. However, more research is needed to know more.

Bismacine
The Food and Drug Administration warns against the use of bismacine, an injectable compound prescribed by some alternative medicine practitioners to treat Lyme disease. Bismacine, also known as chromacine, contains high levels of the metal bismuth. Although bismuth is safely used in some oral medications for stomach ulcers, it's not approved for use in injectable form or as a treatment for Lyme disease. Bismacine can cause bismuth poisoning, which may lead to heart and kidney failure.

4. Prevention (Kate): 

Before gardening, camping, hiking, or just playing outdoors, make preventing tick bites part of your plans.

Know where to expect ticks. Blacklegged ticks (the ticks that cause Lyme disease) live in moist and humid environments, particularly in and near wooded or grassy areas. You may get a tick on you during outdoor activities around your home or when walking through leaves and bushes. To avoid ticks, walk in the center of trails and avoid walking through tall bushes or other vegetation.

Repel ticks on skin and clothing. Use repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin for protection that lasts several hours. Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes, and mouth. Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and may be protective longer.

Perform Daily Tick Checks

Check your body for ticks after being outdoors, even in your own yard. Search your entire body for ticks when you return from an area that may have ticks. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body and remove any tick you find. Take special care to check these parts of your body and your child’s body for ticks:

Under the arms
In and around the ears
Inside the belly button
Back of the knees
In and around all head and body hair
Between the legs
Around the waist

Check your clothing and pets for ticks because they may carry ticks into the house. Check clothes and pets carefully and remove any ticks that are found. Place clothes into a dryer on high heat to kill ticks.

Create Tick-safe Zones in Your Yard

Modify your landscaping to create “Tick-Safe Zones.” It’s pretty simple. Keep patios, play areas, and playground equipment away from shrubs, bushes, and other vegetation. Regularly remove leaves, clear tall grasses and brush around your home, and place wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to keep ticks away from recreational areas (and away from you).

Use a chemical control agent. Effective tick control chemicals are available for homeowners to use, or a professional pest control expert can apply them.

Discourage deer. Deer are the main food source of adult ticks. Keep deer away from your home by removing plants that attract deer and by constructing barriers (like a fence) to discourage deer from entering your yard and bringing ticks with them. ​

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