Around the world, May is generally known as Lyme Disease Awareness Month. The information starts flying fast and furious at this time of year and, sometimes, it can be incorrect, especially as it pertains to tick removal. This is the time of year when a variety of different recommendations make the rounds on social media, and elsewhere, some of which can actually result in any pathogens that the tick is carrying being transmitted to whomever, or whatever, the tick is attached to.
Therefore, one should stay with the tried and true, safe, methods, such as utilizing fine-tipped tweezers, or a proper tick removal tool, and getting as close to the skin as possible, without squeezing the body of the tick, slowly pulling straight out allowing time for the tick to retract its barbs. The tick has also secreted a cement like substance to help hold it in place so if you pull it out too quickly, you will pull out a lot of skin. There are other safe methods as well which can be found on the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation (CanLyme) website – https://canlyme.com/lyme-prevention/tick-removal/.
A lot of information also tends to go around showing the bull’s eye rash, which is the better known Lyme rash. However, only a small percentage of people actually get this type of rash. Other types of erythema migrans (EM) rashes are more common and it’s also possible not to have a rash at all. If you are one of the “lucky” ones though, a growing bull’s eye rash is a definitive sign of Lyme, no testing required, and treatment should start immediately. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
Another piece of info that you may hear is that a Negative ELISA means you don’t have Lyme. This is incorrect! There can be several reasons for a False Negative ELISA. Most doctors are aware that if the test is given too soon after the bite, there is a good chance the test will result in a False Negative because antibodies have not had a chance to build. However, they may not know that antibiotic use after the bite, or a different strain of Borrelia, can also result in a False Negative. There is some indication that later stages can also result in False Negatives. Do not take a Negative test to mean you don’t have Lyme!
Unfortunately, many in the health care field are still lacking in even the most basic of information on Lyme and Tick-borne diseases so one must do their own research and take information with you for appointments. There is a lot of evidence-based literature now available and more research, Case Reports, and information is being posted daily. Know where to look for the best quality information and understand that there is quite a bit of misinformation out there.
You know your own body and when it comes to Lyme and Tick-borne diseases, you have to be your own advocate.