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How to Stay Protected

Why Lyme Disease is on the Rise

When Lyme disease is not treated early, it can lead to a variety of unwanted long-term health issues. And with Lyme disease on the rise, this is becoming a bigger and bigger concern for those throughout the United States.

family at the beach

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. The cause is quite clear — bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and rarely, Borrelia mayonii is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick.

Early Signs & Symptoms of Lyme Disease

After a tick is removed, a small, red bump (similar to that of a mosquito bite) typically appears. This is normal and doesn’t automatically indicate Lyme disease.

The indication will typically appear within the first 30 days following the bite. The most common symptom is a rash.

Lyme Disease Rash

The rash developed as a side effect of Lyme disease commonly appears three to 30 days after the bite. The rash’s typical pattern is a red circle expanding from the bite in a bull’s-eye pattern. While it’s not typically itchy or painful, the rash can feel warm to the touch.

Additional Early Signs & Symptoms

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue 
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Neck stiffness
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Long-Term Symptoms of Untreated Lyme Disease

Unfortunately, Lyme disease often goes undiagnosed — especially in regions where it is (or was) less common. If left untreated, the long-term side effects of Lyme disease can range from uncomfortable to debilitating. These can include:

  • Facial palsy (weakness of the facial muscles)
  • Severe headaches
  • Swelling in large joints
  • Shooting pains
  • Numbness or weakness in your limbs
  • Impaired muscle movement
  • Eye inflammation
  • Hepatitis (liver inflammation)
  • Changes in heartbeat
  • Arthritis
  • Meningitis (swelling of the membrane surrounding your brain)
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Disrupted sleep patterns

While a trip to the beach can be a fun family outing, it's best to take some precautions before and after to reduce the chance of being infected or allowing an infection to go undiagnosed.

Why is Lyme Disease is on the Rise in California?

Globalization is a likely culprit for the increase in Lyme disease in California and throughout the United States. The more people travel, the more they are exposed to diseases in other parts of the country. 

Charles Chiu, MD, PhD, is an associate professor of laboratory medicine and medicine and director of the UCSF-Abbott Viral Diagnostics and Discovery Center. Chiu points to an additional reason for the rise — climate change.

For ticks to be maintained in nature, they need to have what we call an animal reservoir, essentially a mammal such as a squirrel or rodent that can harbor Borrelia burgdorferi – the bacterium in the tick that causes Lyme disease.

Due to climate change, the animal reservoir is expanding. Previously, the reservoir was largely the white-footed mouse found on the East Coast. Today, the Western gray squirrel found in California also harbors the bacterium.

Additionally, Lizards are another common host for the blacklegged tick, though they are not a reservoir. Therefore, expansion of the animal reservoir is also another reason for increasing Lyme disease rates. On the East Coast, the reservoir is the white-footed mouse. 

How Common is Lyme Disease in California?

According to Vanessa Ramo’s article, Lyme Disease-Carrying Ticks Are Turning Up On California’s Beaches published June 11, 2021 by NPR, found that 1 out of 5,000 ticks are infected with the dangerous bacteriums.

Previously the ticks were found in wooded areas and tall grass, which is common on the East Coast. But to the surprise of experts, the ticks appear to be capable of now thriving along the West Coast — namely in the coastal shrubs and grasses. Why they’re surviving in such a location has yet to be determined. 

How to Protect Yourself from Lyme Disease

The best protection is to avoid being bitten. Ticks, especially in their nymph stage, can be extremely hard to see. (In the nymph stage, they are typically the size of a poppy seed but can be as small as a period on a computer screen.)

Whenever you are out in nature — whether that be hiking, going to the park or playing at the beach — it’s recommended you do a full body and head check after. This is best done with a partner using a magnifying glass or smartphone magnifier. 

Additionally, you can take levels of precaution when dressing for your outing. This includes:

  • Using ​​permethrin tick repellent on bags, shoes, and socks
  • Wearing pants
  • Keeping pant cuffs pulled over socks to reduce access to your legs
  • Wear light-colored clothes that make it easier to spot ticks
  • Staying on designated paths and out of tall grasses

Simply wearing long pants that cover your socks offers a layer of protection from ticks.

You’ve Been Bitten, What Now?

Don’t throw away the tick! If you’re post-nature full-body and head check reveals a tick, remove it using pointy nose tweezers. Place the tick in a moist paper towel and put it in a sandwich bag. Then mail the tick to a testing laboratory. 

The lab will be able to tell you:

  • What kind of tick it was
  • How long it has been feeding
  • What kind of diseases it was carrying

These are all important details for you and your doctor to help diagnose and treat any potential illness. 

In addition to removing the tick, you should put your clothes in the dryer on high heat for 15-20 minutes to kill any remaining tourist ticks. Additionally, take a hot shower and give your body a thorough scrub. Pay close attention to the small crevices where ticks like to latch on, including:

  • Armpits
  • Behind the knees
  • Genital areas

How to Diagnose & Treat Chronic Lyme Disease Naturally

The most common treatment for Lyme disease is an oral antibiotic. Unfortunately, some patients find that an antibiotic alone has been enough to help them recover — especially from chronic long-term Lyme disease.

The naturopathic approach to treating Lyme disease takes a whole-body approach. This doesn’t mean alllopathy (Western medicine) is off the table. Rather, working with a naturopath gives you access to the full range of allopathy and homeopathy treatments — ensuring you’re fighting this illness with a complete arsenal. 

When you work with a Premier Integrative naturopathic doctor to diagnose and treat chronic Lyme disease, they will evaluate your diet, lifestyle, immune status, environment, and any additional medical conditions that may be impacting your health. 

Working with you, they will develop a treatment plan to help you heal and regain your overall well-being.

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