The Top Five Steps you can take to avoid Lyme Disease in Kingston, New York

Lyme disease can be a serious debilitating infection that can cause permanent neurological damage.  Okay, so what can you do to prevent Lyme Disease?  There are five simple steps to stopping Lyme in its tracks.

#1:  First Step you can take to prevent Lyme Disease: Remove the tick from your skin immediately!

The duration of the tick attachment to your skin is a key factor in the transmission of the infection.  The risk of infection increases between 24 to 72 hours after the tick attaches to your skin.  If you discover a deer tick attached to your skin that has not yet become engorged (bloated with your blood), it has not been there long enough to transmit the Lyme Disease spirochete (the infection that causes Lyme).

#2:  Second Step you can take to prevent Lyme Disease:  Photograph your rash

Roughly 50% of people finding ticks actully get the bulls-eye rash, or any rash, from a tick bite.  You cannot rely on the presence or absence of a rash to determine the likelihood of infection.  The rash begins a few days to a few weeks after the bite of an infected tick and the rash generally looks like an expanding red ring.

Document the presence of the rash by taking a photograph because it may disappear before your physician can see it.  A picture is worth a thousand words!

#3:  Third Step you can take to prevent Lyme Disease:  Test the tick for Lyme

Using sharp pointed tweezers or specially made tick forceps (they cost about $12 and are well worth it), grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible, as close to its embedded mouthparts as you can.  Do not squeeze the body of the tick, as you do not want to squash the tick and squeeze the tick juice all over the place.  Pull the tick straight out and do not turn the tweezer as you pull out. Keep the tick whole and clean the bite wound with disinfectant.

Save the tick!  Store the tick in a clean glass jar, tightly lidded and labeled with your name and address, and the date you pulled the tick off.  You should have the tick tested right away to see what it contains.  All ticks should be tested.

If you bring the tick to your physician, he/she will send it to a lab for testing.  The lab testing will reveal whether the tick is a "carrier" of the Lyme infection.

#4:  The Fourth Step you can take to prevent Lyme Disease:  Get tested for Lyme Disease

You should get tested for Lyme Disease after you find a tick embedded in your skin. 

The blood tests often give false results if performed in the first month after the initial infection (later on, the tests are more reliable).  The ELISA and Western Blot blood tests are the most reliable tests when performed at least a month after the initial infection. The blood tests detect antibodies produced by the human immune system to fight of the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease.

If you have symptoms of Lyme Disease, such as flu-like symptoms, headache, stiff neck, fever, muscle aches, fatigue and general malaise, and you have a negative blood test performed in the first month after the tick bite, ask your doctor to repeat the Western Blot test.  The first blood test may have a negative result in the early stage (first 30 days) of Lyme Disease.

#5:  The Fifth Step you can take to prevent Lyme Disease:  Take antibiotics to kill the bacteria

Patients treated with antbiotics in the early stages of the infection usually recover rapidly and completely.  The cure rate decreases the longer that treatment is delayed.  Make sure you take oral antibiotics to kill the bacteria in the early stage of Lyme.

But be on the watch for signs of Lyme months after the initial infection!  Lyme can have a dormant phase with few, if any, symptoms and later return to cause neurological deficits and swollen joints.  Early symptoms may disappear but more serious problems can develop months to years later.  The later symptoms of Lyme can be severe and chronic.

If you have neurological symptoms or swollen joints, your doctor may recommend a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test via a spinal tap.  This test amplifies the DNA of the spirochete (the bug) and will usually indicate its presence.

Most importantly, find a doctor who has experience treating Lyme.  The American Lyme Disease Foundation keeps a national list of doctors who are familiar with the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme Disease.  For those in the Hudson Valley, I recommend Richard Horowitz, M.D., an expert in Lyme Disease with an office in Hyde Park.

What you can do if you have questions

If you have questions or want more information, I welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 866-889-6882. You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home pag of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.