As the weather warms up, here in North Carolina, we are seeing more tick bites than any other Spring.
Let’s talk about what to do if you get a tick bite, and how we can treat acute Lyme disease, to prevent persistent or chronic Lyme.
As you may know, our clinic specializes in treating chronic Lyme, but in most cases, if correctly treated, Lyme disease will not turn into a lifelong issue.
To begin with, always collect the tick, if you see it on you, by properly removing the tick and the tick head. https://iladef.org/education/how-to-handle-a-tick-bite/#:~:text=The%20tick%20should%20be%20removed,until%20the%20tick%20is%20released.
We advise you to send all black legged ticks in to Ticknology or Tickreport for identification and testing of Lyme (Borrelia) and coinfections, like Bartonella, Babesia, RMSF, etc.
Next, apply topical herbs:
-Benchmark Thyme Oil (https://www.aromatics.com/products/thyme-benchmark-essential-oil)
– A poultice made with clay and Andrographis, to the bite area to help kill any bacteria that is sitting topically.
(This New York based herbalist, Erin, will ship you a pre-made kit for tick removal and early treatment and you can order from her website: https://www.earthlyremediesbyerin.com/pet-products/tick-kit-prevention-and-treatment-97cc9#:~:text=Clean%20tick%20bite%20with%20Q,bandage%20and%20clay%20as%20needed.)
As you wait for results to come back on tick testing, watch for symptoms of acute Lyme or its coinfections: fever, malaise, flu-like illness, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, and/or rash are the most common symptoms of acute infections. ILADS recommends prophylactic treatment for all patients who had a black legged tick attached, regardless of how many minutes or hours it was attached.
The CDC is known for under reporting Lyme cases and has an outdated stance on treatment of acute Lyme. But even their website reports that only 70% of patients with acute Lyme will develop a target shaped or Bulls Eye rash (termed erythema migrans). https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/tickbornediseases/lyme.html#:~:text=Erythema%20Migrans%20Rashes,of%20patients%20with%20Lyme%20disease.
The actual number of patients who develop a rash is likely only 30% of patients. Therefore, the rash is not necessarily helpful for identifying acute Lyme. This brochure from ILADS is a great resource with photos of the rash and a description of the black legged tick that carries Lyme: https://www.ilads.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/brochure-lyme-disease-a-bacterial-infection.pdf
The International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) has compiled the most current research based guidelines for early treatment of tick borne illness on their website: https://www.ilads.org/patient-care/ilads-treatment-guidelines/
If patients develop any symptoms of Lyme, then we immediately treat with at least 30 days (but usually 60 days) of Doxycycline. If the tick tests positive for coinfections, then we recommend treatment for coinfections as well. In children under age 12, in order to protect children from tooth discoloration from doxycycline, we will use Cefuroxime or Amoxicillin. Herbs such as Samento, Banderol, and Astragalus are also helpful to layer into acute Lyme treatment and can be taken alongside antibiotics. We space out the timing of the antibiotics and the herbal treatment so that they are taken hours apart, however.
For patients who respond better to herbal treatment, we recommend a Beyond Balance combination formula, called BB-2, and dosing is dependent on the size of the patient and how they feel during the first few days of treatment. (https://beyondbalanceinc.com/products/core-immune-support/mc-bb-2/)
Immune system support, with IV vitamin C, oral Echinacea, vitamin D, and Zinc are often added based on the individual patient’s deficiencies and prior labs.
We also offer to treat patients prophylactically if there is a high index of suspicion for Lyme. We order bloodwork to be done around 2-3 weeks after the tick bite, as this is how long it will often take to see a positive Western Blot test, and we always support the gut using probiotics specific to the antibiotic that we have chosen, if antibiotics are being given.
So, the bottom line is to:
#1 Remove the tick correctly.
#2 Clean the area using herbs or a poultice listed above.
#3 Collect the tick in a clean container.
#5 Call our office right away so that we can initiate treatment. https://thefunctionalmedicinecenter.org/
Kate Godly, MS, PA-C