With the incidence of Lyme disease climbing in Ontario, and in Simcoe County specifically, we’re getting more and more questions at the clinic about what people can do to keep their families and themselves safe.
Here are answers to some of the most common questions, as well as info on a new tick removal kit we have available in the clinic.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a disease caused by the bacteria borrelia burgdorferi. It is spread to humans through the bite of an infected deer tick.
Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, fatigue, and a skin rash, especially one that looks like a red bull’s eye (called erythema migrans). Although rashes are fairly common, only 30% of Lyme patients report experiencing a rash, and only 9% develop the classic “bull’s eye” rash.
How do you test for it?
Lyme testing is tricky. Testing used in conventional medicine in Ontario commonly shows false negative results, especially in the early stages of the disease.
There are two reasons for this. First, it takes time for antibodies to develop in the blood (between ten days and a month) so the early tests can miss the diagnosis. Also, Lyme is known for antigenic shifting, meaning the antibodies change, so antibody testing isn’t always effective.
Some international labs, like this one which we use, will do in-depth testing that is more accurate but is not covered by OHIP.
Is it treatable?
Lyme disease is treatable. However if the infection is not treated in its early stages it can easily turn into a chronic infection.
Chronic Lyme disease will not go away on its own over time. There is no evidence to suggest Lyme disease clears the body without treatment. In fact, the opposite research exists.
There are two persistent myths surrounding chronic Lyme disease that affect its treatment. The first is that it doesn’t exist. The second is that there’s no reason to treat chronic Lyme disease since people don’t get much better.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Most people can return to work and carry on with few limitations on their lifestyle. Lyme disease remains one of the most treatable of chronic illnesses.
What do I do if I find a tick on my body?
You can remove an embedded tick yourself, but it is a lot easier with the right tools, and something to keep it in for analysis. We now carry a tick removal kit at the clinic. It’s a great item for your first-aid kit, glove box, backpack, or purse, etc.
The kit includes tick identification cards, 3 styles of tick removers (ie, if tick is in your ear or a pet’s ear a different tick remover size and style are required), magnifying glass, containers to put ticks into, instructions for proper tick removal and identification, and a container to save the tick in.
Available online, or at the clinic!