With the temperatures getting warmer and the days growing longer, summer has finally arrived, and people are ready to get back outside. Whether it is a trip to the pool, a picnic or a tour of the battlefield, everyone needs to take precautions when it comes to being safe outside this summer.
The east coast, specifically Pennsylvania, is a hotbed for ticks and Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is a “bacterial infection, most commonly contracted from a tick bite, that may initially cause a flu-like sickness. Untreated, or inadequately treated, it may cause long-term persistent illness that can affect many systems of the body,” according to The Lyme Disease Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
Adams County native Dr. Robert Mauss provides care to patients with Lyme disease through osteopathic manipulation, functional and conventional medicine at Gettysburg Osteopathic Family Health.
The practice serves as hope for patients who have been through traditional evaluations and have been misdiagnosed with other conditions or illnesses.
Mauss said he is often the fourth, fifth or even sixth doctor the patient sees before they are diagnosed with Lyme disease. For these patients, it has often been between two and 10 years since the initial bite and presentation of symptoms.
The is a lack of reliable tests available for Lyme disease, Mauss said.
“Testing is very poor, often resulting in false negatives. The sensitivity of the current test is 50 percent. That means out of 100 people tested, 50 of them have Lyme but don’t know it,” he said.
Time is important in the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme.
False negatives hinder the patient’s ability to receive the correct treatment in the necessary amount of time to combat Lyme, he said.
“It is important to catch it early and treat aggressively,” Mauss said. “Patients must be their own advocates and understand the disease.
Lyme disease does not receive the same amount of funding as do other diseases, despite the number of people it affects, Mauss said.
In early 2019, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) introduced House Resolution 220, which focuses on the creation of a new national strategy on Lyme disease and tick-borne diseases.
Acute Lyme disease is similar to the flu, causing fever, aches and pains and can set in anywhere between three and 30 days after the initial bite. The commonness of these symptoms often leads to misdiagnoses, Mauss said.
Initial symptoms may subside, but the bacteria remains in the body and can cause flare-ups.
At the initial bite, the immune system will suppress the bacteria and infection. Symptoms will often occur when something stressful happens in a person’s life.
As the disease progresses, the severity of symptoms increases. Symptoms can range from joint pain, depression, inflammation, thyroid problems to neurological problems, loss of memory and Bell’s palsy.
Mauss said he is hopeful that those with Lyme disease will receive more recognition, support and funding to fight what he says is “an unrecognized epidemic.”
If a person believes they may have Lyme, they should get blood tests. If the test is positive, antibiotics will be administered, but if it is negative there are different approaches to be taken including Mauss’ holistic style of treatments of changing aspects of the person’s life including diet, replacing hormones, using herbs and other nutrient supplements.
There is currently no cure for Lyme, patients can only manage the symptoms.
People spending time outside should take precautions to prevent the risk of being bitten by a tick, Mauss said. He recommends wearing shoes and clothes treated with permethrin spray, while also tucking pant legs into socks. Mauss added that while deet may be effective in other situations, it is not nearly as effective as permethrin is for ticks.
He also said to check for ticks after spending time outside, especially on children and pets. A tick nymph is the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Mauss says they are the most common way Lyme is transmitted because they are so hard to see.
Ticks had previously only been a concern from April to October. However, with warmer winters ticks can be active year-round.
“If the weather is warm enough for you to be out, it’s warm enough for the ticks to be out,” Mauss said.
For more information and support, visit https://palyme.org.