7 Tips for Tick Prevention
The latest predictions by infectious disease experts warn of an increase in tick activity this spring, summer and fall. This means the likelihood of contracting Lyme disease is growing – especially if you live in endemic areas. Unfortunately, those with some type of hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), are at a particular disadvantage in the battle against this tick-borne disease.
About Lyme Disease
Caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, Lyme disease is acquired after being bitten by an infected tick. The ticks that carry the bacteria can be very small and often escape notice. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone who has been bitten by a tick may not notice symptoms for a week or two after the initial bite.
Initial symptoms may include:
- A bulls-eye rash at the site of the tick bite
- Flu-like feelings of fever, chills and achiness
- Widespread joint pain
- Facial paralysis
- Swollen lymph nodes
Later symptoms of Lyme may include:
- Severe headaches
- Neck stiffness
- Arthritis with severe joint pain
- Facial palsy
- Nerve pain
- Shooting pains
- Memory problems
- Heart problems
Experts are warning that a ‘tick explosion’ will leap into action this spring and summer — which is likely to increase the number of Lyme disease cases. In reference to ticks, “they’re up and looking for a host hoping something will walk by that they can latch on to,” said Dr. Thomas Mather, aka “The Tick Guy.” According to Mather’s website, tickencounter.org, high tick activity is expected in most of the eastern United States, as well as the Midwest, Plains states and West Coast. The CDC announced that Lyme disease is much more common than previously thought, with over 300,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the United States. That makes Lyme disease almost twice as common as breast cancer and six times more common than HIV/AIDS.
The northeast will be hit particularly hard, with the CDC reporting New York already has more cases of Lyme disease than any other state. “We expect it to be a particularly bad year,” said Dr. Richard Ostfeld, Ph.D., who studies tick-borne diseases at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York.
Generally recognized treatments for Lyme disease are varied courses of antibiotics (including regular IV treatments) over the course of four to six weeks. Clinicians agree that the sooner treatment begins, the better chance of preventing Lyme from progressing to a chronic state.
The Connection Between Lyme and Hepatitis
Although some medical establishments have yet to fully embrace the link, when Lyme disease transitions to a chronic disease, it may cause hepatitis. In an article published in 2003 in the Hepatology Journal, 115 people were studied who presented with the textbook bulls-eye rash from a tick bite:
- 40 percent of the patients exhibited at least one liver abnormality
- 27 percent of patients had tests that returned more than one liver abnormality
- 66 percent of those who contracted the secondary stage of Lyme disease had impaired liver function results
When Lyme disease moves from the first stage to the second, the Borrelia burgdorferi that were restricted to the blood pass into the tissues, and the disease becomes chronic. Thus, close to 70 percent of those with chronic Lyme are likely to have liver problems. According to Dr. John Bleiweiss, a Lyme disease specialist, “Lyme hepatitis occurs in 15 to 20 percent of patients.”
Another study published in a 2014 edition of the online journal Research Open Access, researchers found that persistent infection with Lyme may cause hepatitis. According to lead researcher Marianne Middelveen, “We have used sophisticated diagnostic techniques to show that the Lyme spirochete can attack the liver despite antibiotic therapy.”
To explain how Lyme hepatitis occurs, medical researchers hypothesize the following:
- Borrelia burgdorferi infect various tissues, causing cellular damage, systemic inflammation, and confusion in the body’s immune system.
- The Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria and their waste add an extra burden to the liver’s regular toxin load.
- Borrelia burgdorferi increases the body’s toxic load – which is likely to back up in the liver, leading to localized inflammation.
As a consequence of this inflammatory process, anyone already battling hepatitis is particularly vulnerable to rapid Lyme disease progression and compounded liver injury.
7 Notable Ways to Prevent Tick Bites
The best way to avert Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites. The following tick bite prevention list can prevent you from having to contend with Lyme:
- Repellent – Many bug repellents do not work against ticks. Although some organizations support DEET’s ability to repel ticks, Mather disagrees. According to Mather, your best bet is Permethrin because it kills adult ticks and those in their larval stage (nymphs). Unfortunately, both DEET and Permethrin can be harmful to the liver. A natural, liver-friendly option for repelling ticks is BioShield, a combination of essential oils that ticks vehemently dislike.
- Tick Check Vigilance – Whenever coming in from being outside, whether hiking, camping, gardening or just lounging in the yard, perform a thorough tick check. Check yourself, your children, and your animals. Ticks can be the size of a sesame seed, so this may be laborious and time consuming…but worthwhile. If you have engaged in a high-risk activity, experts advise immediately taking clothes off, inspecting for ticks, and taking a shower. The shower will not kill a tick, but it will make it easier to notice a biting tick – before any disease is transmitted.
- Avoid the Shade – Tick nymphs have leaky cuticles, or outer covers, that rapidly lose moisture. Thus, they can’t survive in environments with lower than 80 percent humidity for more than eight hours. As such, nymphs congregate in leaf piles in shady, humid environments. This is why staying in sunny areas will reduce tick exposure.
- Maintain Your Yard – Many tick bites occur outside the home, often between yards and wooded areas. Landscaping that deters mice, deer, woodchucks and other rodents can reduce ticks. In addition, maintain your yard by eliminating favorite tick habitats such as leaf piles, brush, shrubs and groundcover near the home.
- Cover Your Skin – Covering your skin can prevent ticks from latching on and biting. This means wearing long sleeves and long pants, and tucking pants into socks. If your clothing is light-colored, it will be easier to detect ticks crawling around looking for skin real estate. This is hard to do when it is very warm out, but covering your skin is recommended before the temperature gets too hot.
- Use Your Dryer – Ticks are vulnerable to drying out, so throwing suspect clothing and towels in the dryer on high heat for five minutes kills any lingering ticks. Remember, ticks can survive the washing machine, so use the dryer before putting your clothing in the wash.
- Remove Any Ticks You Find ASAP – If your efforts to prevent tick bites fail, remove any found ticks immediately. The longer it is attached, the greater chance the tick has of transmitting Lyme. There are special tick removal tools, or tweezers can be used. The CDC advises grasping the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pulling upward with steady, even pressure. After removal, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
Lyme disease is a growing health menace. Because the risks of Lyme’s are even greater with liver inflammation, practicing tick prevention is essential. If you live in an area where Lyme’s is common, be aware that the stretch between May and October represent the greatest threat. If you do find a tick has latched onto your skin, remove it as soon as possible and seek medical care if any Lyme’s symptoms arise. In areas like the Northeast where Lyme is rampant, those with preexisting hepatitis who get a tick bite are encouraged to visit or chat with their doctor before waiting to see if any symptoms emerge. In these circumstances, antibiotics may be prescribed right away.
Take some time to review tick prevention protocol, so that the warmest months of the year can be enjoyed without stressing over Borrelia burgdorferi.
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