Updated: Apr 27
Spring has sprung! As the skies grow bluer, the grass greener, and the weather warmer, we’re all spending more time outside. Unfortunately, just as we’re enjoying more time in the outdoors, so, too, are ticks. With Lyme Awareness Month on the horizon, now is the perfect time to remind yourself about the risks of tick-borne disease, and the steps you can take to keep yourself and your loved ones safe! Read on to keep up on the latest research in tick-borne disease, and for helpful tips to make sure the only thing you catch this summer- is some sun!
Prior to spending any time outside, proper protective and preventive measures are invaluable. Make sure to wear a non-toxic tick repellent (like Ranger Ready), and spray your clothes with permethrin. Particularly for activities such as hiking, wear long pants and sleeves, and tuck your socks into your pants for extra protection. If you have long hair, make sure to pull it back, and wear a hat!
However, even with the best preventative measures, it’s important to perform a tick check following any outdoor time. According to Dr. Casey Kelley, Founder and Medical Director of Case Integrative Health, “I encourage all of my patients to take advantage of the beautiful weather, and spend time outdoors! However, upon returning inside, always make sure to give yourself a thorough tick check. Make sure to include under the arms, in and around the ears, behind the knees, and in and around your hair. Whether you’ve gone for a long hike, or simply spent time gardening or golfing- a tick check is absolutely essential”.
So, what happens if you do find a tick? Firstly, don’t panic! Make sure to remove the tick immediately, with a pair of tweezers, tick twister, or tick key. Then, while you may be tempted to toss the tick away- don’t. Dr. Kelley says, “Make sure to save your tick, and send it in for testing! Sites such as ticknology.com, or tickreport.com are great places to start. Most importantly, if you find a tick, monitor yourself for symptoms and book an appointment with your primary care physician. With a disease such as Lyme, it’s extremely important to begin treatment as soon as possible”.
Unfortunately, Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose, leading to a delay in treatment. Less than 50% of patients recall finding a rash, and only 20% of those rashes resemble the classic “bullseye”. Additionally, symptoms of tick-borne disease can mimic many other conditions. Dr. Kelley also attributes the delay in diagnosis to sub-par testing. She says, “Unfortunately, most tests won’t show up as positive until at least 6 weeks after infection. This is more than enough time for the infection to change from an acute, short-lived issue to a chronic one. This is why it’s so important to send in any tick you find on yourself for testing!”.
However, Dr. Kelley also makes sure to note that there are many new and exciting treatments and tests in the work for tick-borne diseases. She says, “While many are still in the early phases, we are seeing more research being done than before into new treatments, ests, and immunological changes. In the past few years, I am seeing more awareness being raised around tick-borne disease than ever before. It gives me hope for the future of treatment, and for my patients”. In particular, ILADS, where Dr. Kelley works as Treasurer, is working on creating space to collect big data from its clinicians trained to treat these infections. She says, “By collecting big data from many providers, it will allow us to take a step back and see what therapies are working and which ones are not working in treating vector-borne infections.”
As Dr. Kelley says, outdoor time is important- but so is protection. This summer, make sure to soak up that Vitamin D, while also keeping yourself safe from tick-borne disease. Case Integrative Health is honored to serve the tick-borne disease community in May, and throughout the rest of the year.
About Dr. Kelley:
Dr. Casey Kelley is the Founder and Medical Director of Case Integrative Health. Dr. Kelley graduated from The Ohio State University College of Medicine and completed her residency in Family Medicine at St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago. She is a ten-year member of the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM), serves as Treasurer for The International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), and is a Founding Member of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM).