Summer Hazard #1: Tick-Borne Illnesses

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: General Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Deer ticks cause Lyme disease.Our New England home is close to Old Lyme, Connecticut, a delightful seaside town abundant in charm, art galleries, and beach communities. It’s also known as the “birthplace,” if you will, of Lyme disease. I was a busy Connecticut-based cardiologist in 1975 when the deer tick was first identified to be the cause of the Great Masquerader,  Lyme disease.

This spring was a very rough tick season, and despite his vigilance my son-in-law was diagnosed with Lyme disease. If that weren’t tough enough, a tick managed to borrow its way under the scalp of our 7-year-old grandson, a scalp his mother checks religiously.

Day one, my grandson’s symptoms were insidious: a low-grade temperature with no known cause along with a dull headache and fatigue. His immune system rallied that first day, and he was back to normal by dinnertime. His mom double-checked his body for ticks, and found none.

Day two his temperature rose again, and waxed and waned throughout the day and evening. Thinking his body was fighting the flu-bug that was going around, his parents supported rest, along with fluids to bolster his fading appetite. .

Day 3, the same temperature, malaise, headache, persisted and body aches set in.  A visit to his MD was planned for the next day.

Day 4, his doctor diagnosed him with Lyme disease when he found a tick hiding in his hair. By that evening, our boy was hospitalized for neck pain and stiffness. He had trouble moving his head. It was so scary! He was dehydrated, so along with giving him antibiotics and intravenous fluids, his MD’s had to rule out meningitis.

We cringed that our little guy would need a spinal tap, but he was well sedated and tolerated it well. And it was necessary. The spinal tap was negative, so it was determined that the Lyme virus had attacked his central nervous system. Thank goodness for antibiotics when we need them!

Thankfully, our grandson is okay and is back to being his happy, healthy, active self. His story is a good reminder that ticks can be “tricky”—burrowing and making themselves very hard to find. So, if you have low-grade symptoms, like my grandson did, you want to have it checked out right away.

Plus, come back on Friday when I’ll share important strategies for keeping ticks at bay.

Now it’s your turn:
Have you, or a family member, had experience with Lyme disease?

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