One day this week I got out of the tub and forgot to lotion up with the tick-repelling lemongrass cream I’ve been slathering on for several months. Sure enough, a few hours later I felt a bite under my armpit and there was a frigging tick.
My migraine meds have run low so, since every year the prescription needs to be renewed, a visit to the doctor’s office was required. Once a year I go to the doctor for this reason only; when I go twice in a year, it’s usually because of a tick bite. As I sat in the clinic room with the temporary physician, I told him about the tick bite and said that although the tell-tale bull’s-eye ring hasn’t yet developed, perhaps he could prescribe the treatment for it. That way I’d have the paperwork in hand, for convenience, if if was needed; I wouldn’t have to return to the clinic.
He is my kind of “Don’t take antibiotics unless they’re really necessary” doctor, and his take on tick bites and lyme disease is that the ticks in this province aren’t the type to carry it, so it is rare here. Testing is poor in Canada, he admits, but he believes most tests that come back from the States are false positives; virtually 100% of them come back positive for lyme disease when people don’t really have it. Their tests aren’t perfectly reliable either, and our testing here is being improved.
Ticks have to remain latched onto your body for 18 hours in order to transmit the disease, he said, and having the red ring around the bite doesn’t mean you have lyme disease. It means you are reacting to the substance the tick put into you so that it could get your blood. If you are infected with lyme disease, the ring will grow to well beyond the size of a toonie and a red rash will spread to be considerably larger. That’s when you need treatment for lyme disease, and you have time — it’s not as if you must take medicine within 24 hours or anything like that.
“So no antibiotic for me then,” I said. “I can drink my wine this weekend.”
Most stories I’m seeing about tick bites lately say that if the toonie-size red ring develops, you’ve got lyme disease. This doctor is forcefully contradicting that.