National Lyme Disease Awareness Month — Part Three: What to do if You’ve Been Bitten by a Tick
In this post, which is Part III in our four-part series focused on Lyme disease, we offer information about what to do if you’ve been bitten by a tick. If you haven’t had a chance to read Parts I & II, please see: National Lyme Disease Awareness Month — Part One: Prevention and Part Two: Symptoms.
Diagnosing Lyme disease is challenging for two reasons:
- Blood tests are unreliable, often resulting in false positives and false negatives (perhaps exceeding 50 percent). These blood tests look for evidence of antibodies to the bacteria that cause the illness.
- Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed as another illness with similar symptoms, in which case, the patient is never tested for Lyme disease.
Here at Restoration Healthcare, we believe the best approach to getting an accurate diagnosis is to see a doctor who is familiar with the illness and experienced in recognizing the symptoms. Our Medical Director, Dr. Raleigh, is experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease. She believes diagnosis should be based on the following:
- Whether you live in, or have ever visited, an area where ticks that carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease are common
- Medical history
- Testing (to confirm a suspected diagnosis)
Blood Tests to Confirm a Suspected Diagnosis
The most popular and conventional way of testing for Lyme disease is a combination of the Western blot and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) tests, which measure specific antibodies in the blood. The ELISA screening test, which is used when Lyme disease is first suspected, measures the levels of antibodies against Lyme bacteria. The Western blot test, which is often run after a positive ELISA result, further tests for antibodies, reporting reactivity against a panel of 10 different proteins found on the Lyme bacteria
At Restoration Healthcare, we use a specialty lab test from IGeneX that addresses the challenge of variance in conventional Lyme testing. This test has consistently identified and confirmed Lyme when other tests have not, and this lab is a trusted partner that helps to provide our patients peace of mind.
Beyond the Blood — Save Your Tick!
While many organizations have developed services related to understanding and combatting Lyme disease, perhaps none has created a platform more profound than the University of Massachusetts’ Laboratory of Medical Zoology.
There, under the leadership of Dr. Stephen Rich, a professor in the UMASS Amherst Department of Microbiology, researchers and clinicians have developed TickReport.com — a trusted public service lab providing tick testing for agencies and individuals alike. Founded in 2006, TickReport offers a battery of tests focused on disease-causing microbes in ticks.
If you’ve been bitten by a tick, we here at Restoration Healthcare strongly recommend using TickReport.com to test for pathogens common to your species of tick, including those that cause Lyme disease.
Here’s how interfacing with TickReport.com works:
- Remove the tick from your body (see below for tips of tick removal).
- Visit TickReport.com.
- Click Pricing (options range from $50 on the low end, to $200 on the high end). Use promo code “tickease” at checkout for $5 off your Tick Report!
- Choose from one of three options for tick testing — each of which offers test results within three (3) business days of your tick having been received by the lab in Amherst, Mass.
- Place your tick in a sealed plastic bag and mail it to the lab (note: while the lab can test ticks that are dead or alive, if alive, you should wrap the tick in a moist paper towel that you place in the sealed bag).
- Next, once the tick is received in the mail, UMASS’ Laboratory of Medical Zoology — operating as TickReport.com — will identify your tick, determine the correct tests to apply, and run your tick test.
- Check your email in seven to 10 days for your test results.
- Once you have your test result, upload it to our OnPatient Portal for your Restoration Healthcare physician to use in determining the best approach to support you in your fight against Lyme disease
TickReport.com’s method of testing (qPCR) detects nucleic acid (DNA or RNA) of the pathogen. While DNA is very stable for long periods of time, there are conditions that are unfavorable to preservation of DNA (such as soaking your tick in bleach). Each TickReport includes a validation to determine that the nucleic acid (DNA or RNA) has been preserved and that the specimen is testable.
How to Remove Your Tick
Please use the following steps to remove your tick:
- Grab the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. (Note: Avoid twisting or jerking the tick out.)
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
Tools to keep handy for tick removal include:
- TickEase: A dual-sided tick-removal device
- Coghlans’ Tick Remover: A simple, gentle action tool for the complete removal of ticks for both people and animals
- TickCheck’s Premium Tick Remover Kit: This product includes two high-quality stainless steel tick removers designed to easily remove partially or fully embedded ticks of any size, as well as a carrying pouch and tick identification card
Each of the tick removal tools mentioned above is available for purchase today and can be delivered within one or two days from Amazon.com.
Having your tick tested by UMASS’ Department of Microbiology (aka, TickReport.com) is the optimal way for us here at Restoration Healthcare to determine how best to help you in your battle against Lyme disease and the many health conditions it mimics. And that’s what we’ll cover next week in the final part of our series on topics related to National Lyme Disease Awareness Month.
If you liked this week’s post, please check back next week for the fourth and final post in our series focused on National Lyme Disease Awareness Month — Preventing Acute Lyme Disease from Turning into Chronic Lyme Disease.