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Warm-weather ticks & Treatment strategy questioned

Surprisingly brisk bursts of wind scatter multi-colored leaves and shuttle herds of gray thunderheads across the sky. It’s Fall, arguably the most beautiful time of the year, at least in our nook of the SE. Still, when it comes to unwanted critters, awareness and prevention are the rule for venturing outdoors.

Warmer weather creates a haven for the tiny natural catastrophes we know as
ticks. In the Southeast, we may be advised that ticks don’t carry Lyme disease, but an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. A recent news clip from WXIA in Georgia attests to the rise in ticks, which may be due to the very warm weather much of the nation has endured over the course of 2012.

For prevention, the classic advice includes keeping on top of your pets’ tick and flea medications, and using caution outdoors. When you are outside, whether hiking, strolling through a neighborhood park, or preparing your garden for the season, don’t make yourself available for ticks. Start a fashion trend -- goodness knows it’ll keep the neighbors amused. Tuck your pants into the tops of your socks and wear light-colored clothing so ticks are easier to spot. Who says you can’t wear white after Labor Day?

Other prevention-strategies for the season: Make a tick-check a part of your post-outdoors routine. We can’t see our whole selves even in the mirror. Ask a family member to inspect the back of your head and your back. If they do find a tick -- have them remove it without damaging it (which can increase the risk of infection) and put it in a baggie, so it can be checked for the bacterial complex which causes Lyme and other diseases. Not all ticks carry the spirochete that causes Lyme.

We recommend sending it to
IGeneX Labs in Palo Alto, California. There are a few other labs around the country, which you can find through searching online.

Watch and wait? Or treat with doxy?
People who suspect that they’ve been bitten and infected by a tick have a couple of choices. One is to watch and wait. See your doctor, and be ready to treat symptoms aggressively if they arise. Symptoms can be extremely subtle, and they are mightily varied depending on your particular immune system response, general state of health, age and many other factors.

The other option is to begin antibiotic treatment immediately, with the most common drug used for Lyme, doxycycline. This approach, which is apparently based on only one case study, deserves scrutiny, according to ILADS doctor Elizabeth Maloney, who has
another view on the matter.

In her written testimony, she questions whether this now commonly-recommended prophylaxis strategy is sufficient to treat the borrelia infection. She states that it may indeed prevent the patient from getting the treatment they need, by hiding the symptoms of Lyme. Watching and waiting may be the wisest choice.



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