Friday, May 20, 2011


I know, I took a week off and I come back with ticks? That's no fun. But you really should look for them. On yourself. Regularly.

tick chart
Credit: CDC
We now know three people in the DC area who have had Lyme disease. One otherwise healthy adult friend of ours who ended up in the hospital for several miserable days of fever, extreme body aches, vomiting, and misdiagnoses before the doctors figured it out. A two year old who had several days of fever and rashes. And another adult who got Bell's Palsy, a complication of Lyme that paralyzes half your face.

All got better with antibiotics. But seriously, have you had a high fever (or paralysis) lately? Why even go there?

To transmit the disease, a tick must remain attached to you for at least 24 hours. So if you check yourself regularly for ticks after going outside, your chances of getting the disease are a lot lower. If you find a tick, pull it out with tweezers, without twisting.

And don't freak out, you probably got it in time. My tick bites usually start itching within a few hours of having been outside, which helps find them. But if you develop a high fever that doesn't seem explained by a cold, tell your doctor you spend a lot of time outside. The textbook description of Lyme disease shows a bull's eye rash, but NONE of our three friends had one, at least not that they ever noticed.

According to the CDC (above), we're on the edge of the biggest hot spot in the country for this stuff. So don't mess around.

To prevent ticks in the first place, the most foolproof technique is to wear long pants tucked into tube socks when you're walking in the woods. (How realistic is that in the DC summer?) Your other option is to use insect repellent, especially around shoes, socks, and lower legs.

Have you found a tick on you this season? Do you know someone who's had Lyme disease? Leave a comment.