Looks like my carefree days working in high density tick areas are over. Last Friday I felt a small, red bump on the back of my right thigh. I thought it might be an innocuous spider bite. On Saturday I felt a little out of sorts, a bit tired. Later that day the red bump became a rash and was spreading outward and a red ring formed around the outside. Ummmm......this seemed like a classic Lyme disease symptom. We hiked on Sunday and I was in the field on Monday and felt fine.
Yesterday, Tuesday, I was feeling less well, with an elevated temperature, slight headache, and mild nausea. I went to the doctor in the afternoon and he concurred that it was likely Lyme disease. I started on 3 weeks of the antibiotic doxycycline, the recommended dose when the disease is detected early. They extracted blood to test for Lyme; the test result is not back yet but I'm fairly certain of the diagnosis.
Here's a picture of my rash, which is now about 3 inches in diameter. Although it looks red and sore, it doesn't hurt a bit. The rash should fade in a few more days and I am, just in the last few hours, starting to feel a little better, just a day after starting on the doxycycline.
New Hampshire has the third highest incidence of Lyme disease in the U.S.; Delaware and Connecticut are ahead of us. Southeast New Hampshire, where I live and do a lot of my work, has the highest density within New Hampshire. Other factors that worked against me are that I often visit areas with tall grass and brush, including this month of June when the tiny, pinhead-sized nymphs are active. Nymphs can transmit the disease more quickly, in less than 24 hours, and because they are so small they are hard to detect. Lastly because I am freckled and have various other skin spots, the little ones are particularly hard to see.
Still, I should take more precautions, and will from now on. This includes checking myself EVERY night before bed and again in the morning. I find that ticks move around at night in our house, always searching for the breath of animals. I will also wear more protection on my legs, either knee high rubber boots or gators that prevent ticks from climbing up my legs. And, I will likely start spraying with DEET or something equally effective, around my boots and lower legs (but not my skin or around my face and hands).
The other item that I carry in my pack is a roll of masking tape to easily grab and seal in any ticks I find crawling on me or Kodi. Lyme disease is transmitted by the blacklegged tick (also known as the deer tick), not by the very common wood or dog tick. We seem to have a lot of both in our area. So, ticks and Lyme disease are just things we live with. The important steps are to take as much preventive action as possible and then watch for potential Lyme disease signs -- either the red bull's eye rash or just if you feel out of sorts. In my case, I had the classic symptoms.