Spring is here, snow and ice have finally melted away, people cannot wait to step out for a hike. Be aware that ticks also come out of hibernation and are ready to feast.
Tick population has dramatically expanded in Ontario in the last decade. Here is Health Canada’s 2018 lyme disease map:
More and more Canadians have contracted lyme infection from ticks or other blood sucking insects. According to CBC news in 2018 “Mount Allison University Lyme Research Network biologist suggests that only 3-4% of Lyme cases are officially diagnosed in Canada”. The majority have been misdiagnosed and treated for something else.
In the last few years I’ve seen an increasing number of patients with lyme diseases in the Kawartha area. Most of them did not know they had lyme disease. They came to me for chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, auto-immune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, MS, Parkinson’s, vasqcuitlis, lupus, etc. Many of them also came to me for chronic digestive problems, recurrent bladder infection/inflammation, insomnia, brain fog or unexplainable pain and neurological symptoms that puzzle specialists. The majority of them never remember any insect bites at all. Yet, when I sent their blood to be tested at Germany’s Armin Lab they came back with active Borrelia (bacteria that causes lyme disease) and other co-infections. After receiving treatment for Lyme disease they start getting better - usually after many months or years of frustration with the medical system that told them “the symptoms are in your head”.
Here is a list of some common lyme disease myths:
People can have the Borrelia infection for years or decades without significant symptoms until there is a big stressor in their lives, such as an accident, injure, surgery, emotional trauma, or other infections that weaken their immune system. It is at this point they start to show symptoms of lyme disease. Although this is a list of possible symptoms, not all patients will have them all: https://canlyme.com/lyme-basics/symptoms/
From my experience, especially in chronic cases, supporting the immune system is a key to successfully treating lyme disease. 40-50% of lyme patients also have other chronic infections as well. Lyme infection can weaken ones immune system and cause them not able to fight other infections.
Information on lyme disease and ticks on the internet can be scary and confusing. But there is no need to hide indoors because of the fear. Here are some good links on the prevention of tick bites and lyme disease:
Ticks are attracted to hosts through smell. They crawl up a plant stem or tall grass and simply extend their front legs waiting to be brushed off by an animal or a human. Then they craw up the host to find an area they can anchor their heads and feed on blood. Lyme bacteria and other infections are transmitted while they feed. Permethrin treated cloth can be effective in prevent tick bites. 30% DEET spray and permethrin spray are both potent pesticides but do carry some risks. Typically, permethrin is used on clothing, boots, and other outerwear. It should not be used on the skin. Although there is very little research data showing effectiveness of essential oils, such as lemon grass, rosemary, geranium, lavender, peppermint and cedar wood oil, they can be helpful to deter ticks by confusing them with the smell. These essential oils are safe for humans and pets. For direct application onto the skin, it is best to use a carrier oil to dilute it, especially for kids and people with sensitive skin.
Enjoy the outdoors, but be vigilant in protecting yourself and your loved ones.
Wei-Wei Han ND.