Test your tick: results worth their weight in gold!

tick test results (3)

Test performed by UMASS-Amherst Zoology lab (our son’s lab results)

Tick season is in full swing here in NH and May is the prime time for catching Lyme Disease and other tick-borne infections.  Both the overwintering adults as well as the nymphs are very active now. I know eight people who have pulled off attached ticks so far (including me and my son).

Save and test your tick!

Did you know that you can test the tick that bit you to see what diseases it is carrying?  Did you know that tests on ticks are 99% accurate while tests on people for tick-borne infection are only 30-70% accurate.  Which odds would you rather have for getting a correct diagnosis?

For example, our son pulled an engorged deer tick off this spring and brought a photo of it to the walk-in-care.  He received a single dose of doxycycline.   10 days later the results of the test on the tick came back showing it was carrying both Borrelia Burgdorfori (Lyme Disease) and Babesia and he is now undergoing treatment for both and should hopefully be fine.  In my case, the ticks that bit me fell off before I knew I was bit.  It took a year and a half of clinical trial and error into my Lyme treatment to suspect I was also co-infected with Babesia and to do a trial treatment.  The symptoms cleared but I later relapsed and we are doing a second round of Babesia treatment now as I am approaching the 3-year anniversary from when I was bitten. So wouldn’t you agree that having the results from the tick test are worth their weight in gold?

Go to tickencounter.org for great photos to ID ticks and tips on the best way to remove an attached tick, how to save it for testing as well as a list of testing labs.  Just make sure if you save your tick in a baggie to close it tight.  (My most recent tick escaped!)

Other prevention tips:

Wear tick repellent clothing.  Did you know that clothing factory treated with permethrin reduces tick bites by 80%? (According to a study of park rangers using the clothing daily.) Look for insect blocker or insect shield.   You can also send your favorite pair of gardening, hiking or work clothes out to be treated if you prefer. (Amazon and eBay can be a source of reduced price clothing.)  You can also spray your clothes at home but the factory applied treatment lasts up to 70 washings vs. 4 washings for DYI.

Spray your shoes! Ticks often start their journey onto your body from the ground.  If you do nothing else, do this!

Be a geek and tuck your pants into your socks. I know it feels goofy but just think of what a great role-model you are to others just like the first people who adopted wearing bike helmets.

Get naked and do a daily tick check. Don’t forget to check your hairline, scalp, groin, waist, armpits and back. Buddy checks can be fun or use a big mirror.  Check that speck of dirt that won’t rub off for legs – nymph ticks are that small!

Cyndi’s extra tip – do your outdoor activities and then take your shower. That’s how I found the most recent tick attached on my back before it became engorged.

Bonus Fact – that single dose of doxy given within 72 hours of removing a tick might do more harm than good.  The current standard of treatment approved by insurance companies is to give a single dose of doxycycline if treatment is started within 72 hours of removing a tick.  However, though studies show that may indeed prevent a Erythema migrans bulls-eye rash, it is unclear whether it actually prevents Lyme Disease since studies only followed people for 6 weeks and only surveyed for the EM rash not the full range of Lyme symptoms.  However according to one of the top Lyme labs, taking that single dose of doxy can confuse your immune system interfering with the normal course of antibody production making it very difficult to diagnose Lyme if you should develop it.


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