Think you know a lot about Lyme disease? Here are the top 5 Lyme disease myths — debunked.
If you’ve had Lyme disease (or know someone else who has), then you know more than you’ve ever wanted to know about Lyme. However, if you’re like most people, your knowledge about Lyme disease is limited at best, which is why Lyme disease myths persist.
We at Linden Botanicals hear lots of myths about Lyme disease. Our founder, Michael Van der Linden, had Lyme disease for almost 4 years, and he’s passionate about helping people understand what the disease is, how difficult it can be to rid the body of a chronic disease like Lyme, and how he himself became free of Lyme.
Here are the top 5 Lyme disease myths debunked.
1. Lyme Disease Isn’t a Big Deal
The number one Lyme disease myth is that Lyme disease isn’t even worth worrying about. The truth? Lyme disease is a major public health concern. Each year roughly 35,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the CDC, “Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vectorborne illness in the United States. In fact, it’s the sixth most common Nationally Notifiable disease.”
You may be thinking, okay, but 35,000 people a year doesn’t sound that high. And that’s true. But this number doesn’t reflect every case of Lyme disease in the United States each year, as many cases go unreported. If every case were diagnosed and reported, the number would be much higher. For example, in one CDC study researchers estimated that 329,000 cases of Lyme disease occur annually in the United States.
The numbers alone don’t describe what a big deal Lyme disease is to those who contract it. While 75% of cases are effectively treated with antibiotics when caught early, for the 25% that do not respond and for the many, many cases that are not diagnosed at onset, the disease can be a life changer.
2. Lyme-Spreading Ticks Are Only in New England
If only this Lyme disease myth were true. In fact, Lyme cases are concentrated in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, from northeastern Virginia to Maine; the North central states, mostly in Wisconsin and Minnesota; and the West Coast, particularly northern California.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
However, black-legged ticks, which host the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, appear to be on the move. One study shows the black-legged tick in 45.7% of counties in the contiguous United States.
3. I Can Get Lyme Disease Only If I Spend Tons of Time in the Woods
One of the most common Lyme disease myths is that you can get Lyme only if you’re wandering deep in the woods. Well, if you’re looking for an excuse to skip the family camping trip, you may still be out of luck. Ticks thrive in wooded areas and in areas with tall grass. You’re at risk in your own backyard.
Simple landscaping techniques can help you stay clear of ticks. For example, mow your lawn frequently, keep leaves raked, and clear tall brush at the edge of your lawn. In addition, create a 3-foot-wide tick barrier around your lawn and around patios and play equipment using wood chips or gravel.
4. It’s Easy to Remove a Tick
The only people who believe Lyme disease myths like this one are those who haven’t had to actually remove a tick from their body. So how do you do it? First, find a pair of fine-tip tweezers. Second, grasp the tick and pull straight up with gentle, steady pressure. Third, If you believe the tick has been attached for more than a few hours and live in a state that will test the tick for the presence of Borrelia, save it in a sealed container and send it in for testing; otherwise, flush it down the toilet. (That means don’t crush it, stomp on it, study it, or show it off to your hiking buddy.) Finally, clean your hands with rubbing alcohol, along with the area of your body where you found the tick.
Learn more about how to protect against ticks and remove a tick from your body here.
5. If I Have Lyme, I’ll Know Instantly
Many people assume they’ll immediately have a rash if they’ve been bitten by an infected tick. However, a bullseye rash, called an erythema migrans rash, occurs in only about 75% of people bitten by an infected tick. And it can take 7 days on average for that rash to become visible.
Symptoms of Lyme disease that you should look out for include fever, rash, facial paralysis, and arthritis. It’s also important to know that, if left untreated, the bacteria can cause neurological issues over time (as early as 3 days after being bitten or starting months later).
These more severe symptoms can include:
- Severe headaches and neck stiffness
- Additional rashes on other areas of your body
- Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly the knees and other large joints
- Facial palsy
- Intermittent pain in tendons, muscles, joints, and bones
- Heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat (Lyme carditis)
- Dizziness or shortness of breath
- Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
- Nerve pain
- Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet
- Short-term memory problems
A doctor can run either the ELISA test or the ELFA test to detect antibodies against the bacteria and confirm with a Western Blot test to give a diagnosis.
Lyme Disease Myths Debunked
More and more people are growing aware of tick-borne diseases; however, many people go misdiagnosed or undiagnosed for long periods of time.
If you’ve been bitten by a black-legged tick that carries Lyme, it usually takes 16 hours for the bacteria to be transferred to your bloodstream. The faster you get ticks off you, the better your chance of not contracting Lyme. Make tick checks part of your post-outdoor routine.
The reassuring news is that you can take steps to protect yourself and your family from Lyme disease. Educate yourself. Start with the facts. And do away with the Lyme disease myths.Get the Free Lessons from the Darkness E-Book