How can I prevent Lyme disease?
Preventing a bite = Preventing the disease!
Safe Tick Removal is essential if bit as well as removing tick as soon as possible.
- The best way to prevent infection is to avoid areas where ticks live such as low lying brush or long grass; particularly in the spring and fall. It’s important to note that ticks are transported by migratory birds so can be found in places you might not expect like local dog park or even your back yard.
- Wear long pants and long sleeve shirts to cover your skin. Clothing in light colors is ideal so ticks are easier to spot
- Check yourself, family members, and pets often, particularly in armpits, groin and scalp which are nice cozy and undercover spots for ticks to hide out
- Apply an insect repellent on your skin and clothes especially at the openings to your clothes such as the ankles, wrists and neck
Can I get bit by a tick if I’m not in the country?
Yes, you can.
Ticks are carried by migratory birds so anywhere they have flown over or visited, there is a potential for ticks to drop off in various areas. Once the tick is off, it might attach to a small animal which further transports the tick/s and any eggs they may lay. It is possible for ticks to be found in city, provincial, and federal parks, your local dog park, even in your own back yard. Not all ticks carry disease but since we can’t tell which ones do by looking at them, it’s crucial to practice prevention first, followed by safe tick removal methods.
What should I do if I have been bit by a tick?
- Safely remove the tick
- See your family physician immediately.
- Consulting with a “Lyme Literate Physician” might be considered. This is a physician who has had extra training in the field of Lyme disease diagnosis & treatment. Contact LDAA or CanLyme or ILADS for possible options.
- Keep the tick and ask to have it tested as it's easier to test the tick/insect than a person: http://www.health.alberta.ca/health-info/lyme-disease.html
- If you develop a rash, take photos (keep in mind that many people don’t get a rash and this does not necessarily mean one is not infected)
- Record any signs & symptoms you may experience
- If you suspect Lyme, DO NOT wait for symptoms to get worse. Preventative antibiotics can help save suffering.
Will treatment cure me?
Maybe – it depends on various factors.
Until recently, many doctors in Canada tended to prescribe only one round of antibiotics, irrespective of the stage of infection. However, current research suggests that a single course of antibiotics is often insufficient for treating Lyme disease, especially if the infection has been untreated for several months.
Two important discoveries have been made:
- Antibiotics are most effective in the early stage of Lyme treatment.
- Co-infections can result in a more complicated case of Lyme disease.
If an infection is caught in the early stages, antibiotics may be able to cure it. If not diagnosed until later stages, treatment can be lengthy, complex and often expensive (and sometimes at own cost). When treatment is delayed or short term, there is a 40% possibility of relapse and infected people may go on to suffer from long term health problems. Treatment for Lyme disease is quite individualized and varies greatly from person to person.
Can I catch Lyme disease more than once?
Yes! If exposed, you can get another infection and require treatment again. No one is immune from Lyme disease infection. Anyone bit by a tick is also at risk of other tick-borne diseases.
If I don’t have a rash does it mean I’m not infected?
Fewer than 50% of people infected get any type of rash. Current research shows that only a small subset/strain of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease will cause a rash and if a rash does develop, it’s rarely at the bite site. Some people develop flu-like symptoms a week or so after becoming infected, however, many people are asymptomatic but can develop Lyme symptoms months, years or even decades later. It’s because of the myth that you must have a rash to have Lyme disease that many people go undiagnosed.
Can I get Lyme disease in the winter?
Absolutely. On average, a Deer Tick lives for two years and can survive in surprisingly cold climates. Although infection rates drop in the winter (primarily because people spend less time outdoors) it is still possible to contract Lyme. Lyme-infected ticks have been found in both Calgary & Edmonton in winter months.
Why is Lyme hard to diagnose?
- Lyme symptoms can be very similar to other illnesses such as MS and fibromyalgia, so misdiagnosis is quite common.
- Many Albertan/Canadian doctors are unfamiliar with the prevalence of Lyme, so they either don’t test for it or sometimes administer the wrong tests.
- Only a handful of blood tests effectively detect Lyme bacteria, so the infection is often missed. There is not a 100% accurate test for diagnosing Lyme disease.
- Be your own advocate or find someone you trust to advocate on your behalf if you think you have Lyme disease. Read the information on this site and at www.canlyme.org and www.ilads.org to be informed of the reality of Lyme disease in North America and beyond.
I was tested for Lyme disease and the results were negative. I guess that means I don't have Lyme?
Evidence suggests that Canada’s Lyme testing methods are flawed. False negative test results are common, especially in the early stages of Lyme. It takes time for antibodies to develop (which the test is searching for), so early tests often miss the bacteria. Contrary to some statements, late stage Lyme disease antibody testing is much less accurate. There is not a 100 % accurate test for Lyme disease so many “Lyme Literate Physicians” (physicians who have extra education on Lyme disease) will diagnose clinically (based on symptoms) and sometimes use confirmatory serologic testing practices. There is no universally accepted test for Lyme disease.