… that ticks can read?
I never figured out why there are people who think ticks stop at state lines. Let’s say they could actually read the state border signs—do ticks seem like mild-mannered rule-followers that would politely crawl back to the previous state?
Even the CDC now admits that there is Lyme in every state. The CDC Lyme case map of the United States shows the most cases in the Northeast, Upper Midwest, and parts of the West Coast. It’s true there’s more Lyme in those areas, but there’s Lyme in every state and on every continent except Antarctica. Since Lyme is underdiagnosed, the map doesn’t show the real number of cases. And in certain areas where ticks generally don’t have Lyme, there might be a few infection hotspots because of environmental conditions. There are an estimated 476,000 new cases of Lyme every year.
The idea that Lyme is rare in certain states interferes with people getting properly diagnosed, because doctors confuse ”less common here” with “not here at all.” The same patient might be diagnosed with Lyme disease in Connecticut but fibromyalgia in Texas. And Lyme is a frequent root cause of fibromyalgia, so if you have fibro you should always get a Lyme test, because Lyme worsens when untreated. Standard Lyme tests offered by most doctors have a ton of false negatives, as they use a very old strain of Lyme bacteria. You’ll need an up-to-date, comprehensive test like the one from IgeneX Labs.
Even in areas that have fewer Lyme-infected ticks, the infection rates can shift from year to year. And as the climate grows warmer, ticks will be more active for a greater portion of the year. (You can still get bitten in the winter—it’s a bit less likely, but ticks are hideous little buggers that can survive under snow and emerge ready to attack once everything melts.)
I live in a state where Lyme is really common, yet Lyme awareness is still pitiful in my part of the state. I trekked to more than 20 doctors to get my ”mystery illness” diagnosed. Doctors presumed that because I was not a hiker and I live in a city, I didn’t have Lyme. Even though there’s more Lyme in the suburban and wooded parts of my state, people cart their dogs to and from from summer houses, where the dogs frolic in the grass and get chomped by ticks. I know someone who got Lyme just by sitting on the grass in a city park near a dog run.
Birds carry infected ticks for long distances when they migrate, and ticks live on mice and other animals. So the idea that Lyme is rare in certain states gives people a false sense of security. You’re at risk if you do any outdoor activities (and in Lyme hotspots you can get bitten just by standing on the lawn), so you should take precautions:
- Avoid fallen logs, leaning against tree trunks, and leaf litter
- Walk on paths or trails instead of through grass, as ticks position themselves on blades of grass with their legs out and attach to people or animals as they brush past (long grass and beach grass are especially bad)
- If you have a lawn, keep the grass short
- Wear light colored clothing so you can see ticks on yourself (in the nymph stage of their lifecycle, ticks are the size of poppy seeds, and this is when most people get bitten)
- Tuck your pants into your socks or wear pants that come down past your ankles so ticks can’t crawl up your legs—ticks like to creep up and lodge in warm places like the groin or armpit (I know, lovely)
- Do tick checks when you go back indoors, and shower immediately to clear off any unattached ticks
- Throw your clothes in a hot dryer for 15 minutes to kill any ticks hiding in your clothes (I know someone who got bitten trying on a top in a thrift shop)
- Ask your vet about the best ways to protect your pet
I probably forgot something thanks to Lyme brain fog, which I might not have if someone had told me not to walk in the grass. I remember my pre-brain fog self. I had a really good memory. Now I live here:
I lose my glasses at least five times a day.
I enjoyed drawing the state line cartoon because for once my deer came out looking like a deer. The last time I tried to draw deer they came out looking like dachshunds.
I guess my deep love of dachshunds came through despite my sincere attempt to draw reindeer. I have to say I love deer quite a bit less than dachsunds. Deer are cute but are basically Ubers for ticks, so I stay as far away from them as possible.
If you’ve been bitten, here’s how to remove the tick properly. Try to save the tick and send it to a specialty lab. This will save you endless misery as you’ll find out whether the tick was infected or not (ticks can have multiple coinfections in addition to Lyme). Find a Lyme-literate practitioner and get yourself checked out.
You can find a good basic explanation of Lyme here or here. And if you already have Lyme and you want to learn about the new insurance codes that will hopefully be a game changer for patients, this is a great article. These insurance codes will recognize early Lyme, late Lyme, Lyme neuroborreliosis, Lyme carditis, and other conditions caused by Lyme. Previously there were no codes that recognized the chronic forms of Lyme.
Wishing everyone a low pain, low-symptoms day. 💚