Tag Archive | family health

Living With Lyme (Part 2): Preventing Tick Bites

This post, originally published in May 2013, still contains very timely information as we approach summer 2014. We are republishing it today in hopes of spreading the word and continuing to educate families about the prevalence of Lyme Disease, in conjunction with May’s Lyme Awareness Month. 

By Mary Ann Filler

Are there changes that you should make to live a healthier lifestyle? Perhaps you need to get more sleep, drink more water, or eat healthy and exercise to lose a few pounds. Information about healthy living can be overwhelming and confusing. But one fact is certain–prevention is the key to good health. And yet many of us do not take measures to ensure our health. In fact, sometimes it takes a major “wake-up” call for us to take action and make positive changes.

I’m going to address a subject that seemingly may not apply to you. If you or a loved one doesn’t have Lyme Disease, you may wonder why you would need to concern yourself with what I have to say. Of course, it is your choice to take heed or not. However, I hope that you will educate yourself and take precautions before you have no choice! “They Won’t Get It Until They Get It,” is a common saying in the Lyme community. May this saying NOT apply to you!

As mentioned in my first “Lyme” blog, Living With Lyme (Part 1), Lyme Disease is both difficult to diagnose and treat.  In his book, Lyme Disease Solution, Dr. Kenneth Singleton suggests that for every case of Lyme Disease that is currently detected, there are as many as ten or more cases of Lyme Disease that go undetected or undiagnosed.  These cases often result in chronic Lyme Disease, which causes debilitating and many times irreversible disease that is difficult to treat.  As a result, preventing Lyme Disease should be a high priority for everyone.

What are some measures you can take to prevent Lyme Disease?

 Be Aware that Ticks are Your Enemy

First, be aware that the primary vector for Lyme Disease is the bite of a tick.  The majority of information in the news perpetuates the belief that only the tiny deer tick, also known as the Blacklegged Tick, carries the Lyme bacteria.  In the interest of time, I’m not going to debate that belief; I’m just going to state that I don’t believe ANY tick is a good tick, and that all ticks have the capacity to carry and infect you with disease.  AVOID ticks if at all possible!

Note:  While not popularly held by “the mainstream,” it has also been suggested that fleas, flies, gnats, mites and mosquitoes may also transmit Lyme disease.  It is certain that these pests do transmit other diseases and it makes sense to avoid them as well.  In addition, humans have possibly passed Lyme and other tick borne diseases along in pregnancy and via blood donation or organ transplant. 

Know Your Enemy

A tick is a tiny parasite that feeds on the blood of animals and people.  They do not have wings and cannot fly or jump.  Ticks get around by walking or hitching a ride on an animal.  When the tick latches on to get a blood meal, it may transmit a bacteria “cocktail” that it obtained from a different host in an earlier feeding in the life cycle.

Life Cycle of a Tick

Life Cycle of a Tick

The length of time that a tick needs to be attached to transmit disease is somewhat debatable; most sources agree that it takes 24-48 hours.  Regardless, proper tick removal (how to remove an embedded tick properly) is critical to preventing the tick from infecting you with disease.

Tick Size Comparison

Know Where and When to Expect Ticks

Since a tick bite is the primary vector for Lyme Disease, you will want to know that tick bites may occur ANY time of the year, but most often during early spring to late summer.  As the weather gets warmer, ticks become more active and more likely to bite.  Ticks live in moist and humid environments, particularly in or near wooded or grassy areas. You may come into contact with ticks during outdoor activities around your home or when walking through vegetation such as leaf litter or shrubs.  Small animals including birds, mice, rabbits, squirrels or chipmunks can carry ticks on to your property.  In addition, if you have a pet dog or cat that frequents your yard or walks in suspect areas, they may carry ticks in to your home.

Caution Tick Habitat

Take Precautions Before Going Into Potentially Tick Infested Areas

When frequenting areas that are potentially tick infested, wear light-colored clothing so that ticks can be seen.  In addition, pick clothing that is made of smooth or tightly woven fabrics making it more difficult for ticks to latch on to you.  Tuck your shirt in to your pants and your pants in to your socks.  Of course, long-sleeved shirts, pants and closed toed shoes are preferred.

 Choose a Tick Repellant that is Right For You

Applying a tick repellant helps to reduce the chances of getting bit by a tick, but you will have to decide which repellent is right for you.  Many sources will tell you to spray yourself with a bug repellant that contains DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide).  While DEET is an effective agent for tick repulsion, caution must be used when applying it, as it can be toxic to the nervous system, and it’s not the most pleasant to use (not to mention the environmental impact).  Avon has a product line that repels ticks and is DEET free.  However, it still contains a chemical called Picardin.  There are natural alternatives including essential oils, but unfortunately little testing has been done to show that these alternatives actually work to repel ticks.

While many people are aware that they should spray their skin with tick repellent, they are unaware that treating their clothing may be one of the most preventative measures available. When sprayed on clothing and camping gear, Premethrin is highly effective in repelling and even killing ticks as well as other pests.  Premethrin treated items kill ticks on contact.  However, Premethrin cannot be applied directly to your skin.  Spray clothing (especially socks and shoes) and gear a day before you will be heading in to the woods.  Once clothing is treated, the Premethrin is still effective through 6 washings.  Premethrin can be purchased on-line or in stores that sell outdoor gear.  As with any chemical compound, follow the directions for use very carefully.

Tick-habitat-sign

Take Extra Precautions If you Spend Time in forested areas.

If you camp, hike, or hunt, you may want to consider purchasing clothing that is pretreated with Premethrin by checking out Insect Shield Clothing (www.insectshield.com).  Pretreated clothing can be washed up to 70 times and still be effective.  When hiking, stay on the path as much as possible.  Also, use a hiking stick to push any branches that may be across the path out of the way.  Spray all sleeping bags and tents with Premethrin.

 What Should You Do After Spending Time in Potentially Tick Infested Areas?

 After an activity in a potentially tick infested area, when arriving home, immediately place all clothing in the dryer (prior to washing) on high for 1 hour.  The high temperatures from the dryer will kill any ticks that may be hanging out waiting to latch on to you or your pet once inside your home.

If you are camping, remove your clothing and place in a plastic bag; close the bag with a plastic tie until you can get home.  Loose clothing lying around a tent or camper may provide an opportunity for ticks to latch on while you are walking around or even sleeping.

Shower as soon as you are able using a brush.  Do a through tick check.  Ticks can hide under armpits, behind knees, and in the hair.  Having another person check in difficult to see places would be the most advantageous.  Of course, an adult should inspect children closely.  Caution:  ticks may look like a small freckle and can be almost undetectable!

Tiny Tick!

Tiny Tick!

Apply a Tick Treatment to Your Pet

If you have a cat or dog that spends time outside, make sure to apply a tick prevention strategy to them as well.  As with treating yourself, you will have to decide which tick treatment is best for your dog.  Of course there are the once a month applications of flea and tick protection or the flea and tick collar.  However, if you’re looking for a more natural/chemical-free approach, you may want to consider, Natural Flea and Tick Defense.

If you prefer, you can make your own spray using essential oils.  One source for recipes and ordering essential oils is experience-essential-oils.  This source recommends using a dog shampoo that is infused with essential oils when you bathe your dog as an added precaution.

Again, the efficacy of many of these items is debatable.  Our family has chosen to use natural alternatives and to create a tick free zone in our back yard for our dog.  Unfortunately, I no longer walk my dog off of our property due to an increased risk of picking up ticks.

 Modify Your Landscaping to Create a Tick Free Zone

Harvard Health recommends doing a “tick drag” in your yard to determine whether or not you have ticks.  Attach a square yard of white flannel to a 3-foot stick and tie a rope to each end of the stick.  Drag the cloth over the lawn and leaves, and examine it for ticks that have latched on.  Do this several times.  Use a cloth mounted like a flag on a stick to determine whether you have a tick problem in your bushy or grassy vegetation.

Reduce your risk from getting a tick bite on your own property by clearing shrubs, bushes, and other vegetation away from patios, play areas and playground equipment. Clear leaf litter and mow regularly.  Place wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to keep ticks away from areas where you and your family spend time.

If you think you have a tick problem on your property, University of Rhode Island Tick Encounter Resource Center, suggests a dual action treatment plan for your property that includes host-targeted Tick Tubes and the habitat-targeted perimeter spray.  When used together in a program, they provide outstanding protection from tick encounter, especially for backyards.

To be honest, prior to being diagnosed with Lyme Disease, I thought very little of tick bite prevention.  Now, our family has taken action to reduce the likelihood of getting a tick bite.  We have hired Natural Lawn of America to spray our lawn.  The company has a more organic approach to lawn care and pest control.  In the upcoming months, we will also be placing Tick Tubes on our property.  We keep our lawn mowed and clear leaf debris.  In addition, our dog is no longer allowed to venture off of our property for walks, and he is treated with the shampoo mentioned above.  I personally believe that preventing your pet dog or cat from encountering ticks can be one of the biggest precautionary measures you can take.  I haven’t done any hardcore research, but I understand that veterinarians are encountering tick borne disease in dogs in record numbers.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late…

At this point, I would encourage you not to wait to incorporate the tick prevention strategies that apply to you.  If you will be spending time in the woods this summer, I cannot stress enough the need for you to protect yourself and your family members.  Please do not wait until it’s too late!

Web Sources:

http://www.rodale.com/natural-tick-repellants-protect-your-yard?page=0,0

http://labs.russell.wisc.edu/wisconsin-ticks/on-people/

www.ilads.org

http://www.tickencounter.org

http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/

http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/vector-borne/lyme/lyme-faq.shtml

http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/lyme/fact_sheet.htm

http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/recognizing-and-avoiding-tick-borne-illness.shtml

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Work it out… Finding Time for Mom

The crescent moon yoga pose stretches arms and side abdominals...

The crescent moon yoga pose stretches arms and side abdominals… Image: Licensed under Creative Commons by Jessmyintyre

By Karen Hendricks

One of the most challenging things nearly all moms face: finding time to exercise. Why is it, that we are all so busy, yet struggle to make time to stay fit and healthy?

It’s hard… I get it! I think the main reason most moms don’t exercise often enough is because we put our family first and ourselves last. Nearly two years ago, when I made radical changes to my professional life, jumping “off the merry-go-round” of 60 hour workweeks meant a commitment to becoming healthier in mind, body and spirit, for my health as well as our overall family’s health. Trimming and toning my professional life translated into the need to trim and tone my body as well. Today, I am happy to say that I am 15 lbs lighter and feeling much healthier, thanks to a (mostly) whole foods diet and regular exercise routine. And because I’m taking better care of myself, I’m better equipped to take care of my family.

Here are 5 tips that I slowly introduced into my daily routines that I hope can help you accomplish your fitness goals too:

1. Walk as often as you can. Think about opportunities throughout your daily routine when you can lace up your sneakers and walk. My town now has a walking path so I will often walk into town for errands rather than drive. Also, while my children are at various sports practices, rather than driving home, I will more often stay at the fields and walk during that time period. It’s a great opportunity to show your children that you enjoy exercise as much as they do. Other benefits: you might learn more about your children’s sports of choice, you will definitely save on gas money driving back and forth to practices by staying put, it’s also a chance to enjoy music—bring along your iPod and ear buds, or you might forge new friendships with other moms by walking together.

2. Define your “wheels” in a new way. Biking is another great way to get around! Along the same lines as walking your regular routes (above), think about your routines and see if you can replace even just one car trip per week with your bike. For example, I have a grocery store just a mile from my home. On those occasions when I only need a handful of items (and they can easily fit into a backpack), I bike to the store and “kill two birds with one stone.” And a little extra weight on the back adds to the workout on the bike ride home! Biking with your family is another great option—you’ll be staying in shape and enjoying family time together.

3. Sign up for a class or join a fitness center. If you make this commitment, you’re more likely to follow through… because you’ll have a set schedule to hold you accountable and because you’ll want to “get your money’s worth.” Quite often, gyms and fitness centers offer special introductory rates. A few years ago, when my daughters were both enrolled in dance classes, I took a pilates class that ran simultaneously—that made it easy to fit into our family routine. I absolutely loved it! Pilates focuses on strengthening your core—your abs and back—through quality movement (not quantity) and proper breathing technique. After trying Jazzercise, Zumba and other more aerobic classes, I found that pilates provided a much more peaceful, refreshed frame of mind, as well as the toning and strengthening my body needed. Another benefit to pilates: It builds long, lean muscles which are more flexible, rather than bulky muscles produced by weight-bearing exercises. Once you have taken classes by a licensed Pilates instructor and have learned most of the essential exercises, you can truly continue on your own at home by devising your own routine or by using DVDs. I located a few beginners’ YouTube clips if you’d like to give it a whirl:

Beginner Pilates Workout – an introductory workout especially helpful if you’ve never done pilates before.

How to Get a Pilates Body in 10 Minutes – a short pilates routine to use when you’re tight on time. Yet, it hits every major muscle group! 

Stretchhhhhh.... Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Stretchhhhhh…. Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

4. Yay for yoga! Many people confuse pilates with yoga, and it’s true that there are similarities. Pilates is defined as “physical conditioning involving low-impact exercises and stretches” while yoga is “a series of postures and breathing exercises practice to achieve control of the body and mind; a school of Hindu philosophy with physical and mental disciplines.” (Dictionary.com) If you take yoga classes, you may need to shop around for a yogi that suits your needs as a leader. Several friends of mine have enjoyed the physical aspects but have clashed with instructors’ religious beliefs. I did not have this issue; my pilates teacher would often switch between the two and mix things up during class. She used yoga primarily as a way to focus, center and truly “listen” to your breathing and meditate before and/or after the hard work of the pilates exercises. The benefits of yoga go far beyond exercise—yoga is said to heal aches and pains, boost immunity and keep illness away, improve sleeping habits and much more. Click here to read “38 Ways Yoga Keeps You Fit.”

5. Step it up! This winter’s miserable, cold weather made it nearly impossible to get outdoors to walk or bike on a regular basis. Feeling “cooped up” indoors, I discovered an easy way to fit exercise right into my morning routine without freezing to death: step aerobics. Again, using a multi-tasking approach, I have found that “stepping” is a great way to start the day when combined with the distraction/enrichment of watching the morning news (I’m partial to the Today Show). I started out with simple step routines for about 20 minutes and gradually increased to 30 and 45 minutes. I keep a water bottle close by, and by the end, I feel energized plus I’m prepped on the news of the day.

Steps do not need to be complicated; you can simply step up and down, across and backwards, or side to side across the step. However if you’d like to graduate to more complicated patterns, there are some great ideas on YouTube, or again, take a step aerobics class at your local gym, and then develop your own routines.

Jamie and Tracey of Breathe Repeat

Jamie and Tracey of Breathe Repeat

A few more resources:

Click here for “Breathe Repeat,” a blog website focused on all things yoga. This is a great resource I subscribed to, after taking yoga classes from Tracey and Jamie at a conference in New York. 

Our blogger Jen shares her advice and inspiration to moms who want to train and run a 5K – Click here for her helpful post.

Stretching throughout the day is a wonderful stress reliever! Click here for our blogger Jennifer’s post “Brain Strain: What We Can Upload to Unload.”

Wishing you all the best with your workouts! Feel free to share your tips, advice and ideas below. What works for you? 🙂

Living With Lyme (Part 2): Preventing Tick Bites

By Mary Ann Filler

Are there changes that you should make to live a healthier lifestyle? Perhaps you need to get more sleep, drink more water, or eat healthy and exercise to lose a few pounds. Information about healthy living can be overwhelming and confusing. But one fact is certain–prevention is the key to good health. And yet many of us do not take measures to ensure our health. In fact, sometimes it takes a major “wake-up” call for us to take action and make positive changes.

I’m going to address a subject that seemingly may not apply to you. If you or a loved one doesn’t have Lyme Disease, you may wonder why you would need to concern yourself with what I have to say. Of course, it is your choice to take heed or not. However, I hope that you will educate yourself and take precautions before you have no choice! “They Won’t Get It Until They Get It,” is a common saying in the Lyme community. May this saying NOT apply to you!

As mentioned in my first “Lyme” blog, Living With Lyme (Part 1), Lyme Disease is both difficult to diagnose and treat.  In his book, Lyme Disease Solution, Dr. Kenneth Singleton suggests that for every case of Lyme Disease that is currently detected, there are as many as ten or more cases of Lyme Disease that go undetected or undiagnosed.  These cases often result in chronic Lyme Disease, which causes debilitating and many times irreversible disease that is difficult to treat.  As a result, preventing Lyme Disease should be a high priority for everyone.

What are some measures you can take to prevent Lyme Disease?

 Be Aware that Ticks are Your Enemy

First, be aware that the primary vector for Lyme Disease is the bite of a tick.  The majority of information in the news perpetuates the belief that only the tiny deer tick, also known as the Blacklegged Tick, carries the Lyme bacteria.  In the interest of time, I’m not going to debate that belief; I’m just going to state that I don’t believe ANY tick is a good tick, and that all ticks have the capacity to carry and infect you with disease.  AVOID ticks if at all possible!

Note:  While not popularly held by “the mainstream,” it has also been suggested that fleas, flies, gnats, mites and mosquitoes may also transmit Lyme disease.  It is certain that these pests do transmit other diseases and it makes sense to avoid them as well.  In addition, humans have possibly passed Lyme and other tick borne diseases along in pregnancy and via blood donation or organ transplant. 

Know Your Enemy

A tick is a tiny parasite that feeds on the blood of animals and people.  They do not have wings and cannot fly or jump.  Ticks get around by walking or hitching a ride on an animal.  When the tick latches on to get a blood meal, it may transmit a bacteria “cocktail” that it obtained from a different host in an earlier feeding in the life cycle.

Life Cycle of a Tick

Life Cycle of a Tick

The length of time that a tick needs to be attached to transmit disease is somewhat debatable; most sources agree that it takes 24-48 hours.  Regardless, proper tick removal (how to remove an embedded tick properly) is critical to preventing the tick from infecting you with disease.

Tick Size Comparison

Know Where and When to Expect Ticks

Since a tick bite is the primary vector for Lyme Disease, you will want to know that tick bites may occur ANY time of the year, but most often during early spring to late summer.  As the weather gets warmer, ticks become more active and more likely to bite.  Ticks live in moist and humid environments, particularly in or near wooded or grassy areas. You may come into contact with ticks during outdoor activities around your home or when walking through vegetation such as leaf litter or shrubs.  Small animals including birds, mice, rabbits, squirrels or chipmunks can carry ticks on to your property.  In addition, if you have a pet dog or cat that frequents your yard or walks in suspect areas, they may carry ticks in to your home.

Caution Tick Habitat

Take Precautions Before Going Into Potentially Tick Infested Areas

When frequenting areas that are potentially tick infested, wear light-colored clothing so that ticks can be seen.  In addition, pick clothing that is made of smooth or tightly woven fabrics making it more difficult for ticks to latch on to you.  Tuck your shirt in to your pants and your pants in to your socks.  Of course, long-sleeved shirts, pants and closed toed shoes are preferred.

 Choose a Tick Repellant that is Right For You

Applying a tick repellant helps to reduce the chances of getting bit by a tick, but you will have to decide which repellent is right for you.  Many sources will tell you to spray yourself with a bug repellant that contains DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide).  While DEET is an effective agent for tick repulsion, caution must be used when applying it, as it can be toxic to the nervous system, and it’s not the most pleasant to use (not to mention the environmental impact).  Avon has a product line that repels ticks and is DEET free.  However, it still contains a chemical called Picardin.  There are natural alternatives including essential oils, but unfortunately little testing has been done to show that these alternatives actually work to repel ticks.

While many people are aware that they should spray their skin with tick repellent, they are unaware that treating their clothing may be one of the most preventative measures available. When sprayed on clothing and camping gear, Premethrin is highly effective in repelling and even killing ticks as well as other pests.  Premethrin treated items kill ticks on contact.  However, Premethrin cannot be applied directly to your skin.  Spray clothing (especially socks and shoes) and gear a day before you will be heading in to the woods.  Once clothing is treated, the Premethrin is still effective through 6 washings.  Premethrin can be purchased on-line or in stores that sell outdoor gear.  As with any chemical compound, follow the directions for use very carefully.

Tick-habitat-sign

Take Extra Precautions If you Spend Time in forested areas.

If you camp, hike, or hunt, you may want to consider purchasing clothing that is pretreated with Premethrin by checking out Insect Shield Clothing (www.insectshield.com).  Pretreated clothing can be washed up to 70 times and still be effective.  When hiking, stay on the path as much as possible.  Also, use a hiking stick to push any branches that may be across the path out of the way.  Spray all sleeping bags and tents with Premethrin.

 What Should You Do After Spending Time in Potentially Tick Infested Areas?

 After an activity in a potentially tick infested area, when arriving home, immediately place all clothing in the dryer (prior to washing) on high for 1 hour.  The high temperatures from the dryer will kill any ticks that may be hanging out waiting to latch on to you or your pet once inside your home.

If you are camping, remove your clothing and place in a plastic bag; close the bag with a plastic tie until you can get home.  Loose clothing lying around a tent or camper may provide an opportunity for ticks to latch on while you are walking around or even sleeping.

Shower as soon as you are able using a brush.  Do a through tick check.  Ticks can hide under armpits, behind knees, and in the hair.  Having another person check in difficult to see places would be the most advantageous.  Of course, an adult should inspect children closely.  Caution:  ticks may look like a small freckle and can be almost undetectable!

Tiny Tick!

Tiny Tick!

Apply a Tick Treatment to Your Pet

If you have a cat or dog that spends time outside, make sure to apply a tick prevention strategy to them as well.  As with treating yourself, you will have to decide which tick treatment is best for your dog.  Of course there are the once a month applications of flea and tick protection or the flea and tick collar.  However, if you’re looking for a more natural/chemical-free approach, you may want to consider, Natural Flea and Tick Defense.

If you prefer, you can make your own spray using essential oils.  One source for recipes and ordering essential oils is experience-essential-oils.  This source recommends using a dog shampoo that is infused with essential oils when you bathe your dog as an added precaution.

Again, the efficacy of many of these items is debatable.  Our family has chosen to use natural alternatives and to create a tick free zone in our back yard for our dog.  Unfortunately, I no longer walk my dog off of our property due to an increased risk of picking up ticks.

 Modify Your Landscaping to Create a Tick Free Zone

Harvard Health recommends doing a “tick drag” in your yard to determine whether or not you have ticks.  Attach a square yard of white flannel to a 3-foot stick and tie a rope to each end of the stick.  Drag the cloth over the lawn and leaves, and examine it for ticks that have latched on.  Do this several times.  Use a cloth mounted like a flag on a stick to determine whether you have a tick problem in your bushy or grassy vegetation.

Reduce your risk from getting a tick bite on your own property by clearing shrubs, bushes, and other vegetation away from patios, play areas and playground equipment. Clear leaf litter and mow regularly.  Place wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to keep ticks away from areas where you and your family spend time.

If you think you have a tick problem on your property, University of Rhode Island Tick Encounter Resource Center, suggests a dual action treatment plan for your property that includes host-targeted Tick Tubes and the habitat-targeted perimeter spray.  When used together in a program, they provide outstanding protection from tick encounter, especially for backyards.

To be honest, prior to being diagnosed with Lyme Disease, I thought very little of tick bite prevention.  Now, our family has taken action to reduce the likelihood of getting a tick bite.  We have hired Natural Lawn of America to spray our lawn.  The company has a more organic approach to lawn care and pest control.  In the upcoming months, we will also be placing Tick Tubes on our property.  We keep our lawn mowed and clear leaf debris.  In addition, our dog is no longer allowed to venture off of our property for walks, and he is treated with the shampoo mentioned above.  I personally believe that preventing your pet dog or cat from encountering ticks can be one of the biggest precautionary measures you can take.  I haven’t done any hardcore research, but I understand that veterinarians are encountering tick borne disease in dogs in record numbers.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late…

At this point, I would encourage you not to wait to incorporate the tick prevention strategies that apply to you.  If you will be spending time in the woods this summer, I cannot stress enough the need for you to protect yourself and your family members.  Please do not wait until it’s too late!

Web Sources:

http://www.rodale.com/natural-tick-repellants-protect-your-yard?page=0,0

http://labs.russell.wisc.edu/wisconsin-ticks/on-people/

www.ilads.org

http://www.tickencounter.org

http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/

http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/vector-borne/lyme/lyme-faq.shtml

http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/lyme/fact_sheet.htm

http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/recognizing-and-avoiding-tick-borne-illness.shtml

I Gave Up Drinking Soda for Lent

By Jen Ashenfelter

I know drinking soda is not good for me, but Coke Zero or Diet Cherry Pepsi have been my beverages of choice for years. Hi, my name is Jennifer. I’m addicted to soda. I love the bubbles dancing in my mouth…and truth be told, I love the sweet taste and quick rush soda gives me. And it’s diet, so I don’t have to worry about the calories. I know I should drink more water, but how can I give up the flavor?Coke Zero

Challenge Accepted

I decided to give up drinking soda for Lent. There’s greater success in achieving a goal when we are held accountable for our actions. So who better than God to keep me on my toes? I don’t need Mayor Bloomberg to help save me from my own habits, but politics aside, I think he’s got the right idea in limiting the sale of soda to something smaller than the size of a personal keg.

I’m proud to report I was successful—not a drop of Coke Zero or any other soda for 40 days. Not even a sip on Sundays when we’re free to indulge. I wanted to rid myself of the craving so drinking it every Sunday wasn’t going to help me. In addition to breaking the diet-soda habit, I thought it would help me drink more water. I can report that was an “epic fail.” I drank plenty of black coffee and green tea—I’m probably medically dehydrated and low on calcium, but that’s another story. Hey, small steps for big gains—leaving the water drinking situation for another day.

Health Report: Bursting the Bubbles

We’ve all heard how soda is bad for your health. I’m not here to make any judgments on food and drink choices, but understanding my choice to give up soda wouldn’t be complete without some background information. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control on obesity statistics in America, more than 1/3 of American adults are considered obese. Obesity rates among adults and children continue to rise. One contributing factor is the consumption of sugary drinks like soda. Add all the health problems related to obesity when listing the reasons not to drink soda.

Knowing that drinking empty calories causes weight gain, I’d drink diet soda with 0 calories. But weight gain and obesity are not the only health problems related to drinking soda—diet or not. Other health problems include:

  • Osteoporosis – one study
  • Fatty liver and metabolic disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart attacks

Heart disease, diabetes and metabolic disease are not good, but as a woman who drinks more coffee and soda than milk and water, I found osteoporosis the most frightening of the problems.

According to a WebMD report:

Researchers at Tufts University, studying several thousand men and women, found that women who regularly drank cola-based sodas — three or more a day — had almost 4% lower bone mineral density in the hip, even though researchers controlled for calcium and vitamin D intake…Phosphoric acid, a major component in most sodas, may be to blame, according to lead study author Katherine Tucker, PhD. Phosphorus itself is an important bone mineral. But if you’re getting a disproportionate amount of phosphorus compared to the amount of calcium you’re getting, that could lead to bone loss.

And let’s not forget reports on the negative effects of artificial sweeteners, sodium consumption and high-fructose corn syrup—but that’s another blog topic entirely. I felt giving up soda was an important goal for me.

The Big Picture

There’s a growing trend in turning to more natural foods instead of highly-processed foods and drinks. As a mother, I want to give my children—and myself—more nutritious meals and snacks, but it’s not always easy. The trend is towards…

  • Drinking milk and water; not juice and soda.
  • Eating lean proteins and whole-grain; not fast food and junk food.
  • Enjoying fresh fruit and vegetables; not sugary treats.

Do as I say, not as I do: Yep, I’m a hypocrite…a fraud. I drink a lot more diet soda than water and milk. I am weak and will scarf down a snack-size bag of chips or handfuls of Pepperidge Farms Goldfish before I consider an apple or raw veggies dipped in hummus. (And I wonder why the jeans feel a little snug or why the kids give me trouble about food choices.) We preach to our kids but how often do we follow our own advice?

I've replaced Coke Zero with a glass of my favorite flavor of seltzer.

I’ve replaced Coke Zero with a glass of my favorite flavor of seltzer.

One Step at a Time

For me, it’s all about making small changes that will become healthy habits, so that’s why I decided it was time to tackle my soda addiction. Here are my personal observations of my very unscientific study:

  • I can survive without drinking soda—and don’t really want to drink it now. (I drank a diet Coke with lunch the other day because I didn’t want the calories of regular iced tea and didn’t find much satisfaction at the bottom of the straw. Lesson learned.)
  • If you give up (diet) soda because of the artificial sweeteners, then it’s almost impossible to find alternatives—except water and flavored seltzer—which do not contain them…or lots of calories.
  • Eliminating soda from my diet but adding jelly beans is dumb—for all the sugar and chemicals, might as well drink the soda.
  • Start water addiction. Flavored seltzer is great if you crave the bubbles. And with the hotter months ahead, ice-cold water will taste much better.
  • Flavored seltzers should be added to beverage dispensing machines and bottles stocked in refrigerated cases. Sure, plain water is usually offered at restaurants, but I just explained that I need to work on my water addiction.
  • Buy honey, mint or lemons and teabags to make fresh iced tea.
  • Wine and spirits do not count as appropriate alternatives regardless of their finer, pure qualities.
  • Everything in moderation!

What habit have you changed for the better? Are you a soda or water drinker?

For more information about the impact of drinking soda on your health, check out these links:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/13/soda-obesity-diabetes-ban-_n_2862064.html#slide=779339

http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html

http://boston.cbslocal.com/2011/08/31/first-of-its-kind-cdc-report-breaks-down-soda-statistics/

“The Healing That Chronic Pain Brings Part 2 ~ Dealing and Healing: How to Cope”

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

We don’t value our health until we lose it.” That quote appears on a banner at the medical center where I receive treatment for back pain. In Part 1 of my 2-part series on chronic pain, I shared the story of my life before and during chronic pain, and the unexpected blessings it can bring.

Slow life down and count your blessings!

Slow life down and count your blessings!

Here are some helpful tips I have learned along the way in dealing with chronic pain or supporting someone you know experiencing it.

Dealing and Healing: How to Cope

*Rally your support system. Dealing with insurance companies, navigating our health care system, and being proactive about your care is difficult and often confusing. Doctors are typically narrowly focused, and sometimes there is little to no coordination between practices or sensible dissemination of information. You must research, and push your doctors to give you the care you deserve.

Identify family members or friends who can accompany you to your doctor appointments. Make sure you are comfortable with that person knowing your medical history and keeping it confidential. Ask them to listen extra hard and take good notes. It is very easy to miss something important when you are in pain, or when you have multiple practitioners to visit.

Surround yourself with family members you know will “go the distance” with you, and friends who lift you up. Spend less time with those who don’t “get it” or don’t seem to understand what you are going through. Those who dole out platitudes, or give you the “at least you don’t have cancer” talk – perhaps even judging your medication and treatment plans, are not people you need to invest in emotionally.

My childhood friends are my family!

My childhood friends are my family!

*Advocate for yourself – and find an empathetic, well-versed pain management doctor. This can be your primary physician or a specialist.

If one doctor doesn’t take care of you and your pain needs to your satisfaction, find one who does. Be sure you are comfortable discussing how you feel, and working with them to find a management program that is tailored to you. This is different for every person. As a stay-at-home mom and writer, with a husband who works a job and a half, my pain management plan might look far different from that of an older retired person with fewer daily responsibilities. It is not often during the course of a 12 hour + day on the go that I can simply fall onto the couch and ice down!

*Seek evaluations and counsel from many professionals. I am big on second (and third and fourth) opinions, and recommend working with a variety of people who specialize in certain areas.

Having more than one eye on a problem generates more than one solution. I call my group of doctors and other specialists “Team Jennifer!”

*Do everything you can to make your life easier. You have enough to deal with – your focus should be on your healing, not whether your coffee table is dusted!

Chronic pain affects many facets of a person’s life, and can mean significant adjustments. Since some daily life changes involve spending money, you have to decide what you can afford or accommodate. We hired a housecleaner, ordered groceries through a delivery service, and found wonderful babysitters to wear our busy little 3 year old out a couple of days a week when he wasn’t in preschool.

In the past, I played “super mom.” Now I am often exhausted – from battling daily pain, caring for my little boy when my husband is not home to help, and coordinating my healthcare. Even daily life routines can become overwhelming. Over time, though, I have seen that I can be a super mom just by being present. My son has become accustomed to the modifications I need to give myself a break and physical relief. He enjoys getting my ice pack for me, and reminds me to do my back exercises and take walks with him outside. He even asks me how my back is feeling! You will not meet a more empathetic 3 year old, and frankly I think we could use more people like that in this world.

My son feels good about helping me out!

My son feels good about helping me out!

In the long run, I found that there was actually a huge blessing to be found in my condition – I gained time with my son. We bonded over snuggle time and story time. I have no regrets!

*Reduce your stress level as much as possible. Contrary to popular belief, usually stress does not cause pain. However, stress often aggravates an existing condition.

Difficult as it may be, force yourself to take a hard look at your life – professional and personal, and cut out those things (or people!) that cause physical discomfort or emotional turmoil. Leaving my part-time job and making a few other adjustments helped my healing. For example, travel (even a short car ride) became too painful for me. So, we invited our family and friends to visit us, yet asked if they would stay at an area hotel so I wouldn’t have added hosting responsibilities. Trust me, those who really care won’t mind! Additionally, with the help of a wonderful chronic pain therapist (if you don’t have one, get one!), I identified and embraced those among my family and friends who could be supportive, and let go of stressful, toxic relationships.

Let your good friends take you away from it all!

Let your good friends take you away from it all!

*Remain connected and allow others to be there for you. This can be hard when you don’t feel well. Sometimes, it may seem easier to withdraw. However, isolation is not good for your healing in the long run. When I embraced life again, my vitality began to return.

Dance On!

Dance On!

As bad as you may feel – physically and emotionally, reaching out and plugging back into life as much as possible given your condition will help! Allow those emotionally healthy people in your life to be there for you and to help you when you need it. When you get better you can return the favor. Here’s to your health!

Are you or someone you know dealing with chronic pain? Please share how you are coping or your advice for handling the complications it can bring to your life – your insight may help someone who is looking for answers!

Living With Lyme (Part 1): What you May Not Know About Lyme Disease

By Mary Ann Filler

Just a little over a year ago, I thought that a person infected with Lyme Disease presented with a bull’s eye rash that could easily be treated and cured with a round or two of Doxycycline. My perception of Lyme changed in December of 2011 when I was diagnosed with the disease.

After educating myself about Lyme Disease, I realize that my symptoms began and progressed over a 6-year period prior to my diagnosis. My symptoms included knife like headaches, vision disturbances, dental issues, sinus infections, chronic bronchitis, a heart arrhythmia, neck and back pain, hip pain and chronic fatigue. About three years prior, I had a blood test that apparently ruled out Lyme. I now know that the blood test is not very accurate and that Lyme Disease is a clinical diagnosis.

A month prior to my diagnosis, I knew that something was desperately wrong. Every muscle in my body was firing, and I had extreme joint pain that traveled from one joint to another. It was like having the flu, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and arthritis at the same time.

I went to my general practitioner and he ordered a lot of blood work including a Lyme test.  This time, my Lyme test was positive.  That meant that at some point I was bitten by a tick (ticks are the main vector) and infected with the Lyme bacteria,  B. burgdorferi.

Unfortunately, when my blood test was negative all those years ago, it never occurred to me to look any further in to the disease.  However, after diagnosis I began to diligently research and read anything I could find relating to Lyme disease and treatment.

What did I discover?

 LYME DISEASE IS A POLITICAL DISEASE

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does not even recognize the existence of Chronic Lyme Disease and the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) is in agreement.  However, the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS) validates those of us who are suffering with the chronic form of Lyme Disease.  As a result of the discrepancies in beliefs between the CDC, IDSA and ILADS, many medical doctors are not aware of how late stage Lyme can manifest in a patient’s body.

I have read accounts of people spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on expensive and inconclusive diagnostic procedures only to be dismissed by their medical doctor and referred for psychiatric help.

THE BULL’S EYE RASH IS PRIMA FACIE EVIDENCE OF LYME INFECTION

Well-informed doctors will treat patients who present with a bull’s eye rash, erythema migrans, without waiting for a blood test confirmation.  Unfortunately, less than 50% of people recall either a tick bite or a rash.  In addition, while the bull’s eye rash is considered classic, atypical forms of rashes are actually more common with Lyme Disease.

Years ago, I had an oval-shaped raised red rash that took quite a while to clear up.  I remember looking at it and thinking that it wasn’t a bull’s eye shape; I dismissed it as a spider bite.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

One version of a bull’s eye rash – Credit: Wikimedia Commons

THERE IS NO ACCURATE DIAGNOSTIC BLOOD TEST FOR LYME DISEASE

 The current standard for diagnosing Lyme Disease involves a 2-tier blood test.  The first test administered is a screening test called the ELISA.  The second tier test, the Western Blot, is only performed if the first test is positive and is used by many medical professionals as a confirmation of diagnosis.

According to ILADS, the ELISA screening test is unreliable.  The test misses 35% of culture proven Lyme Disease.  The Western Blot, is also inaccurate as 20-30% with acute culture-proven Lyme Disease will test negative.  In addition, the longer a person has been ill, the less likely they are to test positive as the antibodies that we produce as a result of having Lyme Disease decline over time.

Lyme Disease should be diagnosed clinically!

TREATMENT PROTOCOLS FOR LYME VARY GREATLY

 Once diagnosed, getting treatment for Lyme Disease presents another problem.  Since the CDC does not recognize the existence of Chronic Lyme Disease, some doctors will give a few weeks to a month of antibiotics and claim that a person is cured. Perhaps if the disease is caught in the early stages, this may be true.  However, for those of us who have a later stage of the disease, a couple of weeks to a month of antibiotics will not provide much relief.

The treatment protocols for Lyme are as numbered as the symptoms that manifest in each person.  “Lymies” and their advocates must decide the best treatment protocol on an individual basis.  Treatment is not a one size fits all process, and in many cases patients must go “off the beaten” path to find help.

LYME DISEASE IS ALMOST ALWAYS ACCOMPANIED BY ADDITIONAL TICK BORNE DISEASES

I had never heard of Babesia, Bartonella or Ehrlichia prior to my Lyme diagnosis.  These bacteria, also known as co-infectors, are found in critically ill individuals who also suffer from B. burgdorferi, the Lyme bacteria.  These co-infectors may be responsible for persistent and chronic cases of Lyme.

Credit: istockphoto.com

Warmer weather on its way… Credit: istockphoto.com

As we approach the warmer months of the year, we will all be spending more time outside.  For my next few blog posts, I would like to address issues relating to Lyme Disease.  My hope is that you will educate yourself about this potentially devastating disease, not only for your own benefit, but for your family and friends. There is no question that early diagnosis and treatment is much more effective than the treatment for the chronic stage of the disease!

Do you know anyone who has or suspects they have Lyme Disease?  Please share your thoughts and experiences!

“The Healing That Chronic Pain Brings: Part 1 ~ Hidden Blessings”

Despite the smile on my face, being laid up is not fun.

Despite the smile on my face, being laid up is not fun.

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

Do you know someone who is sick or battling an illness right now? Likely, you do. Everything from the common cold and broken bones to arthritis and cancer takes its toll on everyday lives. Each is difficult to deal with, and everyone reacts differently to pain and suffering. In the medical center where I receive treatment for back pain, a quote hanging on a banner reads, “We don’t value our health until we lose it.”

Once I was vivacious and active, and enjoyed running, hiking, kayaking and lifting weights. I worked with personal trainers and took fitness classes. My husband and I were on the go a lot – and working out was part of every day. We even made sure there was somewhere to run on vacation! I expected I would always be moving in one way or another, but 2 years ago my physical capacities and mental strength disappeared. Or so I thought …

One evening in December 2011, I said to my husband, “I don’t feel right. Something’s wrong.” That was the beginning of countless doctor and specialist visits. Diagnosis and choosing a treatment plan also involved multiple tests, x-rays, and scans. I battled endometriosis first. That disease, although not life-threatening, is extremely painful. Whereas each person’s pain level differs, it is not affected by how much endometriosis you have – rather by what it is doing inside your body.

Endometriosis spreads like wildfire and is very difficult to “stamp out.” Following a laparoscopic procedure to remove what could be seen, I endured a round of treatments to keep it “at bay.” Finally, a hysterectomy became necessary. Laparoscopic or not, that surgery can take up to a full year to recover completely.

Although endometriosis causes a good deal of abdominal pain, it can also have a “wrap around” effect and cause lower back pain. When my back pain did not subside several months following my second surgery, I had a new battle – to find out what was going on now.

Dealing with insurance companies, navigating our health care system, and being proactive about your care is difficult. Doctors are typically narrowly focused, and there can be little to no coordination between practices or sensible dissemination of information. You must research, and push your doctors to give you the care you deserve.

I learned I had a degenerative lower disc, an annular tear, and arthritis. So my battles began anew, and I started treatment programs and healing regiments to recover full use of my back and reduce my pain level. Only now am I beginning to feel a little better. I found out my disc tear will heal some (it can take up to 18 months), yet to what extent remains unknown. This means that my future holds hope for healing, but I don’t know what my lifestyle will be like.

Chronic pain affects many facets of a person’s life, and for us meant significant adjustments. I stopped working part-time and my husband works two jobs. We hired a housecleaner and ordered food through a grocery delivery service. Travel, even a short car ride, became too painful for me. Stress aggravated my condition. My husband rearranged his work schedule to drive me to outpatient procedures. We had no care for my son during these times, so he came too.

I was often exhausted – from battling daily pain, caring for my little boy when my husband was not home to help, and coordinating my healthcare. Even daily life became overwhelming to handle.

back painI felt very alone. It seemed others didn’t understand that my world had turned upside down. If I talked about it, I usually received platitudes or the “at least you don’t have cancer” talk – even judgment about my medication and treatment plans. I was ready to give up, and for a time went to a dark place within that I was not sure I would come back from.

Finally, one specialist convinced me to see a chronic pain therapist. This started my healing process. Over several months, and lots of pushing on her part, I finally emerged from my isolation and began reaching out into the world around me. She taught me how to reconnect with those who could be supportive; to let go of stressful, toxic relationships; and to make new friends and get involved in my community. She showed me how to embrace life again, and slowly my vitality began to return. That awakening also helped my physical healing which evolved to include massage, dance classes, and yoga sessions.

Reaching out and plugging back into life helped me. I am not completely healed, and still have bad days physically and emotionally, yet for the first time in over 2 years I have a glimpse of life on the other side of chronic pain. Hopefully, that will include more pain-free days and an active lifestyle. I am also able to look back at my physical pain and emotional despair, and see that although I experienced a trying time in my life, there were hidden blessings in the midst of my struggles. Ironically, dealing with chronic pain, and finding myself “off the merry-go-round,” has brought healing and clarity to my life:

*I know who my friends are. Unfortunately, there are few people who can handle supporting someone who is sick for a very long time. I am thankful for my best friends, Jen (our blog panel member) and Karen S., who have carried me through this ordeal.

*I can do more than I think I can. My husband says I get more accomplished in a day than women who don’t have chronic pain.

*I was forced to slow my life down and sit on the sidelines as an observer. One good thing this has affected is spending time with my son. Sometimes I worry about him dealing with the family dynamic of chronic pain, yet my husband is quick to point out how caring and empathetic he is at such a young age. I have been able to slow down time and watch him grow – inch by glorious inch!

*I discovered hidden talents. My doctors said no more running. This is hard for me to embrace (what, no more half marathons?!), yet I learned to dance which my doctors encourage to build core muscles and keep joints moving without impact!

*I have grit. It takes great mental fortitude to handle over 2 years of ongoing pain and still function with some normalcy!

Are you or someone you know dealing with chronic pain? Please share any hidden blessings you have found amidst the pain!