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You Asked: I Think I Have Lyme Disease

You're asking and I'm answering.

Dear Fit,
Last weekend after a night of camping, I was washing my hair and realized there was something stuck to my scalp. My husband took a look and found a small black tick embedded in my skin. He removed the whole thing, and aside from being completely freaked out, now I'm worried that I have Lyme disease. How do I know?
—Totally Ticked Off by a Tick

I'm sure many other readers can feel your pain in discovering a creepy crawly bug on your head, and I can understand your concern about Lyme disease, but don't panic yet. Just


First, it's important to know what kind of tick you found on you. Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium (called Borrelia burgdorferi in case you were wondering), which is transmitted by a bite from infected black-legged ticks. In the northeastern and north-central US, the blacklegged tick (or deer tick) transmits Lyme disease. In the Pacific coastal US, the disease is spread by the western black-legged tick. When a tick feeds on an infected animal, the little bugger takes the bacterium into its body. It sounds gross, but the bacterium lives in the gut of the tick, and the next time it goes to feed, the tick can transmit the bacterium to its new host.

If you have Lyme disease, early symptoms include fever, headache, muscle soreness, fatigue, and a characteristic reddish skin rash called erythema migrans will appear three to 30 days after you've been bitten. The rash is often circular and resembles a bull's eye pattern. If left untreated, the infection can spread to your joints, heart, and nervous system, causing pain and loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face (called facial or "Bell's" palsy).

If you are having early symptoms, or you just want to be sure, a lab test will determine if you have Lyme disease, and a few weeks of antibiotics will successfully treat the infection.


Join The Conversation
skigurl skigurl 8 years
two weeks in a row at the cottage i had leeches stuck to my legs and feet. like how sick is that? honestly i was freaking out, and screaming for my dad and he came running because i'm pretty sure he thought i was being murdered. and i just realized i had a dream last night that i had huge leeches stuck to me too!! SO SICK! i know this isn't really related, but still.
LadyAngel89 LadyAngel89 9 years
If the tick (the Deer Tick, the Lone Star Tick and the Westerm Black-Legged Tick are able to carry lyme disease) was attached to you for less than 24 hours than the likelihood of you contracting lyme disease is low. If you're not feeling well you should go to the doctor and even afterward you should keep a close eye on any changes in your health for a while. And there are bug repellents that will repel ticks. You should use a bug repellent that contains DEET (usually the woods and camping formulas have sufficient percentages) and you can also apply permethrin which kills ticks upon contact.
FreethinkerX FreethinkerX 9 years
Please go here and get the scientific papers proving the IDSA, CDC et. al has committed FRAUD against mankind, it is in their very own words, just like in the documentary "Under Our Skin." Nearly everyone tests negative on the screening test the docs give you. It's called the ELISA (EIA) and it's over 40 years old. They have "spun" the testing around in 1994 to make it very hard to test postitive. There is a great lab in cali called IgeneX, i suggest a Western Blot from them! Please, please go and read them, for you and your loved ones....
julieulie julieulie 9 years
I also never had the initial symptoms -- in fact, I wasn't diagnosed until YEARS afterward. I had a shit primary care physician back when I was in high school who always stated that despite being an equestrian working around horses outdoors all the time, I wasn't at risk and never needed to be tested. However, when I was in college I wound up in the hospital with a 105 fever and went through a slew of testing before finally a lyme titer was done, and the infectious disease specialist who treated me said he had never in his career seen someone with such a high lyme titer. Long story short, because mine went untreated for so many years, I wound up with myocarditis, arthritis, and several irreversible neurological problems... all of which could have been easily been prevented by getting treated sooner. So, if you think you've been exposed, just get tested -- don't put it off, because the results can be SEVERE.
Robin123 Robin123 9 years
People don't always get initial symptoms! I had no symptoms when bitten; they started three months later and I never connected the muscle pain to the tick bite. I suggest seeing a lyme-literate doctor and doing 4-6 weeks antibiotics to be on the safe side, since chronic Lyme will take your health, sanity and pocketbook! You can get a lyme-literate doctor referral in your area at Re other comments here, ticks/Lyme/coinfections are everywhere now, even in front and back yards. Yes, there is Lyme in San Diego - there's a large support group there. And yes, there is Lyme in Florida. Support groups can be found at Plus there is ongoing Lyme patient discussion/info. I don't think it is safe to contact vegetation anymore without having tick repellent on us and our indoor/outdoor pets! I use TKO Orange, a nontoxic, essential oil from oranges. You can find it as Orange Guard or order directly from the company. I put a couple drops in a spray bottle, fill it up with water and spray on my clothing. Ok to use as long as not allergic to oranges and no cats around.
OOooIceSkating OOooIceSkating 9 years
Lyme disease can happen anywhere, not just the woods. I live in New York City where I had no contact with a wooden area and was diagnosed with it in March. I only had it a couple of weeks before I went to the doctor because I was having pains which felt like they were in my bones. After a series of tests, I was tested for rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Lyme disease, I tested positive with exposure to Lyme Disease. After a western blot test, the results concluded that I did have Lyme. The medication I was on was very severe, doxycycline, which made me violently vomit. It was fun taking the subway into work each morning. My doctor switched my medication to a very high dosage of Amoxicillin, which did the trick. I still get pains time to time (which lessen) but it was good that I was diagnosed early because it is a serious disease that attacks your neuro system. If you think you have it, get it checked out.
givelivelove givelivelove 9 years
I had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever last week, which you also get from a tick. I'm pretty sure I got it at my aunt's house in Maryland (her house is sorta in the woods). The weird thing was I never found a tick! But I was so sick with serious vomiting (every hour!), fever, and a pounding headache. My doctor didn't really know what it was but suspected RMSF based on my symptoms. I got tested for it and he was right! Also, my aunt had RMSF before and she was really sick in the hospital, and her son got Lyme Disease. I don't think I will be spending too much time outside when I go back. I wish there was a way to keep the ticks off! i don't think bug spray works, right?
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
I get ticks all the time when camping, but thankfully i dont have to worry about Lymes disease in florida
DrSugar DrSugar 9 years
There is a lot of unsupported lyme disease paranoia floating around out there. Commenter #2 even made it the name of there teamsugar profile! It is true that lyme disease does not always present with the characteristic rash, however almost everyone will have some symptom indicating illness ie fever, muscle pain, headache. If you develop these symtpoms after a tick bite, the treatment is two weeks of antiobiotics. This treatment is almost 100% effective. So there's no need to panic as it is a very treatable disease. Good luck and happy hiking.
zabrow zabrow 9 years
ohhhh man, i was just talking about ticks & lyme disease the other day with a friend. i'm guessing san diego doesn't have that much of a problem with ticks, because i've never even seen one, but i'm still paranoid that i'm going to get bitten.
SugarKat SugarKat 9 years
I have a ferocious fear of ticks. They are horrible in So. IL and that's where I've gone a few times in the last two years. My daughter had a tick on her hat and I freaked out! I then went home and researched ticks and found that they weren't bugs at all, but arachnids. That didn't change my mind though. They're totally gross and I am still afraid of them.
Xandara Xandara 9 years
I'm so paranoid about Lyme disease, too. I live in the woods and every time I feel anything brush against my skin I freak out, but it's usually just a hair. The two times I've found ticks on me, I haven't felt them at all, and that scares me more!!! Neither seemed buried in me, but they were teeny tiny babies. One I found in the shower and thought it was a mole at first, and the other I found after waking up cos I had to pee SO BAD and seeing it right at the edge of my panty line. :( They both came off easy with tweezers and hurt more to take off than any time they were actually biting me. But man, those bites afterwards are worse than mosquito bites... itchy, but super painful if you actually scratch them. Grrrr I HATE TICKS!!! I wish there was something like Frontline (which our cats have) but for humans!
TidalWave TidalWave 9 years
My coworker had a target-looking circle on his back that was there for a month before he went to the doctor. He didn't feel ill and it didn't itch, but it didn't go away. When he finally went to the doctor, she said it was a text-book example of Lyme Disease. She gave him an antibiotic and it went away! So i would definitely get it check out, but it might not be a big deal at all.
sweetpeabrina sweetpeabrina 9 years
I second sundaygreen. Except instead of thinking "uh", I thought "omg!" Also - make sure to check out other parts of your body. :)
Lyme-Is-Here Lyme-Is-Here 9 years
The last few lines in your article were incorrect! "If you are having early symptoms, or you just want to be sure, a lab test will determine if you have Lyme disease, and a few weeks of antibiotics will successfully treat the infection" The lab tests for Lyme Disease are VERY inaccurate, and in the early stages you may not have enough antibodies to show up in a test yet. If caught early you will need at least 6 weeks of antibiotics and that might be enough. Most cases are not caught early and that's where the problems come in. Most doctors do not want to even test for the disease, and even if you are "lucky" enough to have a positive result most will still tell you it's probably a "FALSE POSITIVE"!!! You should also know that the "Bull's eye rash" shows up in only about 50% of people ifected. If left untreated or undetected, or more likely misdiagnosed, it can cause severe problems with the heart, joints and nuerological problems. We need better more accurate testing and more research into this very serious disease.
sundaygreen sundaygreen 9 years
Uh, go to the doctor!
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