A Tick in Time Saves Lyme? Part 2!

A Tick in My Hip Tick in Me 1
The lab results came back a couple days ago. Heres what the Imugen lab attendant said: Your tick is a deer tick nymph (most common Lyme disease carrier), it was not carrying Babesia (a parasite), it was not engorged, but it was carrying Lyme disease.

Woah.

Flash back one week: In my previous “Tick in Time” blog entry, I wrote about my latest encounter with nature– a little freeloader attached at the hip. Literally. Ixodes Scapularis. Friends and family contacted me with all sorts of thoughtful words of wisdom. Everything from “donít worry about it,” to “get pre-emptive antibiotics just in case.” And online I found no end of conflicting advice:

“It won’t transmit disease for 24 hours.”
“36 hours.”
“48 hours.”
“Save the tick and watch for symptoms.”
“There’s a good chance that youíll have no immediate symptoms.”
“Get the tick tested.”
“Lyme disease is no big deal. Treat it if you get it.”

I tried fruitlessly to blend the advice into a cohesive medical plan, but there were too many contradictory information fragments, so I decided to contact a local doctor’s office in Rhode Island that specializes in tick-related illness. They said something like this:

“There have been so many cases of Lyme disease in the Rhode Island area this year that we just prescribe a two week course of antibiotics for anybody who shows up with a tick bite.”

Hmmm. I called my doctor back in CA and he recommended that I simply save the tick and watch for symptoms. Who did I trust? I chose to trust the specialist and asked my doctor for a prescription for 14 days of the antibiotic named “doxycycline.” He agreed and wrote a prescription for me, but I checked the recommendation once more with the pharmacist before popping my very first pre-emptive antibiotic pill. Considering my present lack of symptoms, the drug seems to have done the job– if I ever even caught anything in the first place. Now to address my conscience…

I really hate the idea of taking pre-emptive antibiotics. Even if I actually need the medicine to fight an infection, I still give a little thanks to the universe that antibiotics still exist and are mostly functional. Considering the rampant over-use in hand soap and feed lots, it seems that our antibiotics’ days are numbered. All of that medicine is washed out into rivers and streams and out where the little bacteria live– where they learn to happily co-exist. And for what? So that weak bacteria are killed on our hands, only to leave room for more resistant bacteria? So that we can mess with the diets and lifestyles of animals so that they need the stuff just to survive?

I’d love it if my guestimate above was wrong. In fact, if you know better, please share! I’d feel better about the state of the universe if our casual use of antibiotics made more sense.

So then I must consider how I can justify pre-emptive doxycycline. After preparing for a year for this YERT adventure, the last thing I want to do is get sidelined after the first couple weeks by a 10-day fever, or an advanced case of Lyme’s disease requiring a month of intravenous antibiotics. Could I schedule periodic antibiotic injections without even knowing the city and state that contained my next meal? Doubtful. I don’t have the time for that. So I opted for the pre-emptive antibiotics. But are pre-emptive antibiotics in the same loathsome category as antibiotic hand soaps? Was I risking the accelerated demise of functional antibiotics for the sake of my own convenience? Or is this whole process simply self-indulgently excessive reflection?

Ultimately, I think that it is always difficult to reconcile the way things should be with the things really are today. If I can accomplish anything by this guilt-ridden rant, it would be that you think twice — no, think thrice about your antibiotic hand-soap. But if you still don’t care, read this.

Acknowledging that Mother Nature rules. Literally.

Mark

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