A Rash Decision

Wednesday morning I woke up and looked in the mirror. A large circular red rash spread from under my left shoulder onto my chest and under the armpit. There was a red dot in the middle. “What the heck is that?” I wondered but my mind was whispering an answer that I did not want to hear.

Lyme Disease, lyme rash, lyme disease symptoms, deer tick

Typical Lyme Rash

I showed the rash to my husband who said, “It’s probably nothing but you should get it checked out anyway.” The little whisper in my head agreed. So I headed off to the doctor’s office later that morning, telling myself that it was nothing, that the doctor would tell me to stop worrying, put some hydrocortisone cream on it and send me home.

Instead the doctor took one look at the rash and exclaimed, “Whoa, that’s a Lyme rash!” He looked closer and added, “That’s a classic Lyme rash.” The little whisper had been right.

I stopped on the way home to pick up a prescription for Doxycycline, the “big gun’ antibiotic that’s used against @LymeDisease. Now I’m taking that, plus probiotics and yogurt to replace the natural digestive bacteria that antibiotics wipe out, along with the disease.

Picking Up the Tick

Then I started wondering where I had picked up the infected tick. I don’t go hiking in high grass and I stay away from tall grass and weeds as much as I avoid poison ivy. The placement of the bite on my shoulder indicated that I was probably carrying something on which the tick was riding. Several suggestions presented themselves.

Seawright, day lilies, lyme disease

Seawright Gardens

The first and, I think the most likely, is that I got it carrying the day lilies I bought at Seawright Gardens’ going-out-of-business sale last month. That makes sense because the lilies were growing in a large field surrounded by woods. They’re tall and floppy and would have drooped over my shoulder as I carried them from the car to my garden.

The funny thing, though, is that I was being really careful as I walked through the field to pick out the blooms I wanted. And I checked my legs for little black dots before I got back into the car.

The second is that the tick was in one of the huge clumps of Siberian iris that were taking up most of my garden, having grown unchecked by the previous owner for many years. Hoicking them out was a big project that involved both my husband and me. At times I had my arms wrapped around them and pulled up while he dug under the roots. If deer had been in the garden, though, my hosta would have been eaten down to nothing and they are flourishing.

cat, deer tick, lyme disease

The Mighty Hunter

The third is that the tick was in Mystique’s fur when I picked her up and it crawled onto my shoulder from there. Here’s another interesting point: I had told the vet I was concerned she would get Lyme disease. Mystique is a very outdoor cat and a mighty hunter. There is no keeping her inside on a warm dry day, although she does come in the house at night to be safe from the coyotes. The vet replied that cats don’t get Lyme disease.

Cats Don’t Get It

Now that’s fascinating. People get it, dogs get it, horses and other livestock get it—but not cats. That fact seems worthy of research to me. If we could figure out why cats don’t get Lyme disease, we could possibly come up with a vaccine or other deterrent.

I do remember having two red welts in the same location about two weeks ago, which my doctor said is the right timing. They were long and red but they didn’t itch like most insect bites. Instead they hurt when touched, like a burn. They went away after a few days and then the rash appeared. I never felt any of the “flu-like symptoms” that sometimes appear, or the headache.

I mention all these details so that readers, particularly in New England, will know what’s happening if they feel or see the same symptoms. The number of cases in the northeast is growing but Lyme Disease is often unreported, undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.  Lyme Disease is bad news and the longer it goes untreated the worse it gets. I’m happy that the rash appeared in a place where I saw it immediately and could not ignore it.

Tick identification card, Lyme Disease, deer tick, dog tickWell, I could have ignored it. Many years ago when this disease first began appearing, I saw the same kind of bulls-eye rash on my neighbor’s arm as he sat out by his swimming pool. I told him what I thought it was and recommended that he get it checked out. Tom shrugged and said he’d be fine. Then he ignored it. They sold the house and moved away so I never knew what happened after that. But having a doctor look at a rash is nothing—less than nothing—compared to the effects of Lyme Disease.

Stay alert and don’t take chances. If you see something odd, go to the doctor. Better safe than sorry.