Ticks Are Awake: A Public Service Announcement
Nymph stage ticks of all types are waking up from hibernation and they are hungry. Like most people in this country, I knew very little about Lyme disease. Had I known just a little more, my Lyme journey may have been a little smoother, and a lot less frightening. For the sake of our big Woodland Herbal family, I will share a bit of what I learned the hard way.
Late spring of 2020, I noticed a red mark on my calf. Since I am a nature girl who is most comfortable in broomstick skirts, my pins often resemble a 5-year-old child’s legs covered in scratches, bruises, grass stains and bites. The red mark was very itchy and sore, and I assumed it was just a bug bite. I applied my comfrey salve and went on my merry way expecting it to heal.
It didn’t heal, it grew. The spot became darker, a rash appeared, and the skin around it began to swell. The pandemic was raging across the country, and I didn’t think a bite warranted the risk of visiting our family doctor. After two weeks of treating my leg with herbs and salves, all was forgotten. I had a fever. I woke up one morning with a fever, stiff neck, muscles aching, and so very fatigued. All the C-19 symptoms. I went straight in to be tested, and it was negative. They said it was just a run of the mill influenza, go home and rest.
I did just that. I drank my herbal teas and syrups and tinctures, all the tried-and-true helpers for the flu. I steadily felt worse. Pain radiated from my neck to the rest of my body like a giant charley horse. I wanted to sleep, but I had insomnia for the first time in my life. I felt as though I had fallen down a rabbit hole, nothing made sense when people spoke to me, and I felt like I was losing my mind. I kept seeing things out of the corner of my eye, like a mouse running across the floor. But nothing was there. At the end of two weeks, the pain in my body had become so intense I could not stay seated but paced the house and yard. I lost 27 pounds in a matter of weeks. At last, my husband could watch no more and drove me to the emergency room.
As I paced around the examination room, the doctor saw my leg peek out from the hem of my skirt. With his pen, he marked the clear rings that circled the bite which I had been too ill to notice. More than a month after the initial bite, I had a diagnosis of textbook Lyme disease, all the symptoms, a bullseye rash, and a positive blood test. I never saw the tick that bit me.
I was stunned. I had no idea Lyme Disease was such a nightmare. Because of my ignorance, I did not seek treatment until the bacteria and co-infections had plenty of time to burrow deep in my body. Because I didn’t know what to watch for, my life was turned upside down and I will continue to work toward good health possibly for the rest of my life.
In some ways I was lucky. I had a very bold bullseye rash and positive blood test, which doesn’t always happen for everyone. I was lucky the emergency room doctor on rounds knew what Lyme looks like. While the northeast of the country is more familiar with warning signs, the rest of us are sorely lacking knowledge. Like myself, many believe it isn’t in their area or it is very rare. Lyme disease has been found in every state, and nearly every country. My bite from an infected tick was not a fluke, as I was bitten and reinfected last year. I have not traveled, this happened in my central Ohio backyard.
I will not list the many symptoms of Post Lyme Treatment Syndrome (PLTS), only the initial warning signs of acute illness. There are many experts in the field and plenty of good information for those looking to learn more.
If you find a tick burrowed in your skin, do not grab it with your fingers and pull it out, light its rear-end with a hot match, or try to smother it with alcohol. Do nothing that would cause it to share more bacteria with you than it already has done. Remove it gently with a tick removal tool or tweezers gripped near the head of the insect. All types of ticks in all life stages can carry Lyme and a host of co-infections. Once bitten by an infected tick, bacteria spreads through the body searching out favorite foods, like collagen rich tissues (joints, brain, muscles like the heart, eyes, and skin), and myelin (a fatty sheath that surrounds and protects nerves). Symptoms present differently in each individual depending on the location of the bite and the state of the person's health when bitten. If you develop a low-grade fever, flu like symptoms, fatigue, stiff neck, transient muscle pain, or a rash around the bite don’t hesitate to see a medical professional for bloodwork and antibiotics right away. Until we learn more about this devastating disease, early detection is our best hope for successful treatment. For more information, visit www.globallymealliance.com for the latest research, statistics, symptoms, and treatments. Do you have a Lyme story? Please share in the comments below.