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Protecting Yourself from Lyme Disease This Season



Green ribbon for Lyme disease awareness

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 outdoors, so, too, are ticks. As May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, 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 learn more about Lyme disease, and for helpful tips to make sure the only thing you catch this summer is some sun!


What Is Lyme Disease?


Broadly speaking, there are two stages to Lyme disease: “acute” and “chronic.” Though they are the same bacteria, Borrelia, they may as well be totally different pathogens.  


The major symptoms of acute Lyme disease are:


  1. The quintessential “bull’s-eye rash”  

  2. Flu-like symptoms


If you’re lucky enough to spot Lyme disease during its acute phase, treat it with a 30-day round of antibiotics (not a one-day course, not a 14-day course, but a full 30). Of course, you’ll want to wrap the antibiotics with system-supporting supplements like a good probiotic, a liver/detox-support supplement, an immune-boosting supplement, and a multivitamin. 

Woman feeling flu like symptoms from Lyme disease

Here’s the problem: While the bull’s-eye rash is widely understood as the tell-tale sign of Lyme disease, it actually appears in less than 50% of patients. And those flu-like symptoms? They can be easily mistaken as … the flu. Many in the medical community dismiss these symptoms, but pay attention! Are you getting the flu in the middle of the summer (with a fever, aches, chills, etc.)? If that seems odd, you may want to get tested for Lyme.  


Some other acute symptoms to look out for: a swollen joint not related to an injury and facial paralysis called bell’s palsy. 


If the initial infection goes untreated, that’s when acute Lyme transforms into the complex and dangerous condition called chronic Lyme. 


When an acute tick bite goes unnoticed, the bacteria starts to wander, traveling throughout the body and finding homes in the brain, the gut, and the joints. It can do this because Borrelia can twist itself into many different shapes, forms, and even sizes. It can mimic almost any chronic disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or chronic fatigue syndrome. If your doctors are looking for any of those diseases, they won’t find them. Sadly, many patients go undiagnosed for years, or even decades. I usually see these patients after years of frustration with symptoms that don’t show up on lab results. 


Symptoms including:

  • Brain fog: an inability to find words or think clearly about subjects patients know well.  

  • Joint pain: Lyme will sometimes feel like arthritis. The giveaway is that the joint pain mysteriously migrates from joint to joint.  

  • Severe fatigue: This fatigue is not the satisfying “I’m tired from a long day” type. It is a draining, all-consuming level of tiredness that hits quickly. It feels more like, “I just took a shower and now I need to sit down to rest because that wiped me out.”

  • Depression: This one is particularly heartbreaking. Most outsiders chalk up a patient’s depression to them complaining excessively about their other symptoms (creating its own depressive spiral, ironically). The reality is that brain inflammation caused by the Lyme bacteria is actually irritating the neural network and causing a depressive response. Depression is the brain's physiological response to the inflammation, much like a stomachache is the stomach's physiological response to eating an entire tub of ice cream. Only this one won't go away with an antacid. 


Preventing Lyme Disease


First: Pre-treating your outdoor clothes with permethrin (found at any sporting goods store) is a cost-effective way to help prevent tick and other insect bites. The trick here is to spray your clothes in a very well-ventilated area (think outside on a clothesline), as concentrated permethrin can be neurotoxic. Once a small amount is absorbed into the fabric, you’ll have a strong layer of safe protection.   


Spray down everything (including your socks, hats, and shoes) until damp and then let them air-dry. Once the permethrin is dry, it will last about six washes, and forms a safe and effective barrier on your clothes. 

Man tucking pants into socks to prevent tick bites

Second: This is my favorite part, where I get to instill an incredible sense of fashion for your next hike. Tuck your pants into your socks. Seriously. This is not only stylish, but it’s also absolutely essential. You can pick up ticks on your shoes, and they then crawl up until they reach flesh. This style choice has the added benefit of embarrassing your kids and making hipsters think twice about their own fashion choices.  


If your socks are tucked into your pants, ticks will have a long, long way to climb before they get anywhere important. By then, they will hopefully fall off.  


Third: Finding a tick can be tricky. Consider wearing light-colored clothes so you can see the ticks and remove them. If you have long hair, make sure to pull it back. (Better yet, wear a permethrin-treated hat). After being out in the great outdoors, take your clothes off. You can throw them into the dryer to help kill off any ticks or just throw them in the wash. 


Fourth: To protect your skin, I recommend using non-toxic sprays like picaridin Ranger Ready (rangerready.com) sprays or DEET-free Repel with lemon-eucalyptus essential oils (repel.com). Make sure to reapply while you're out and about. 


Fifth and finally: Do a thorough tick check when you get home. Look at the arms and legs, behind/in your ears, under your arms, and in the groin, where they like to hide. (You might need to recruit a friend for this). 


Don’t forget to protect and check your furry friends as well. There are multiple options to protect your pets – please talk to your vet for more details. 

Green backyard in spring and summer

Protect Your Home


You can also protect your yard. You can purchase Tick Tubes (ticktubes.com) or make your own. These are toilet paper tubes stuffed with permethrin-sprayed cotton spread across your yard. Mice take the cotton balls to help make their nests, covering the mice in permethrin. This doesn’t hurt the mice, but will kill any ticks on the mice and help reduce the number of ticks you will be exposed to. Be mindful to place the tubes in places where your dogs or cats can’t reach them. I typically do this to my yard every spring and fall and have seen reductions in the number of ticks. Additionally, the CDC has some useful advice for helping create a tick-less yard


As we embrace the joys of spring and summer, let's remember the importance of protecting ourselves and our loved ones from Lyme and tick-borne disease. By staying informed about the risks and taking proactive steps, we can enjoy the great outdoors without fear. Remember, prevention is key: treat your clothes, use safe repellents, do thorough tick checks, and keep your yard tick-free.


For appointments with Dr. Casey Kelley, visit caseintegrativehealth.com and fill out the "appointments" form, or call 773-675-1400. Case Integrative Health is proud to serve patients in the Midwest, Chicago and the US. 


109 views5 comments

5 Comments


I appreciate this article for providing a valuable overview of Lyme disease, from the different stages to the various Buckshot Roulette symptoms. It effectively highlights the importance of early detection and treatment.

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Ann Green
Ann Green
Jun 10

Protecting all external aspects is important to protect the skin and from insects and keeping the premises clean helps to minimize the attack of harmful insects. Happy Wheels

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It's crucial to stay vigilant, especially during outdoor activities. Thank you for sharing these prevention tips – they're definitely going to come in handy as I enjoy the spring and summer weather. geometry dash

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I've heard of Lyme disease before, but I didn't know this much, I'm probably lucky to have come across your article and read it in detail. basketball legends

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