If you talk to anyone who spends time outdoors, they’ll likely tell you it’s shaping up to be a bad year for ticks.
Ticks have always been a problem in this part of the country, but each year it seems like we are hearing more and more about Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, as well as other tick-borne illnesses such as Bartonella, also known as cat scratch fever, and Babesia, a parasite from some ticks.
If not diagnosed quickly, some of these diseases can cause chronic problems, sometimes lifelong.
Mallory Qualls fell ill after being bitten by ticks when she was just four years old.
It was not until four years later that doctors diagnosed her with Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, as well as other complications due to the tick bites. Now she is eighteen and may deal with some of these symptoms for the rest of her life.
“It’s a daily battle still, Qualls said. I have symptoms every day. It varies day by day. One day I may have joint pain, another day I may have anxiety. Usually every day I have at least ten symptoms such as de-realization, air hunger, fatigue, headaches, dizziness. And the list goes on and on.”
Because of her fourteen year battle, Mallory’s mother Debbie Qualls has become a Tennessee representative for The Lyme Disease Coalition.
She has a lot of advice for folks heading outdoors to avoid tick bites, and what to do if you are and think you have symptoms one of the diseases.
“Do tick checks every night when you come in, she warned. I don’t care if you are just out on your patio. Because I have gotten two off of me this week just from the patio. Especially if you are going to be outdoors, hiking or doing fun stuff. We don’t want you to be scared, but we’ve got to enjoy nature. But do those tick checks.”
She also says that if you remove a tick that has been biting you, put it in a ziplock bag, date it and freeze it. If later you think you have symptoms, it can be sent to the lab to be tested for most of the diseases that are caused by tick bites.
But there is another illness caused by ticks. It’s called Alpha-gal. It causes a person to become allergic to red meat. If not diagnosed quickly, it can be dangerous.
The attached picture of Monte Chandler shows how she looked twelve hours after she had eaten a hamburger for lunch. She awoke that night unable to breathe.
She was bitten by a tick in 1994 before doctors knew about Alpha-gal. Cancer researchers discovered it in 2007, but she was not diagnosed until 2015. She almost died several times and went to the emergency room numerous times after going into anaphylactic shock.
Now she knows not to eat red meat.
If you or someone you know thinks they may have symptoms, or to learn more about tick-borne illnesses, here are a few websites you might find helpful.