Lyme Disease Detection and Prevention: How to Stay Tick Aware

Lyme Disease Detection and Prevention: How to Stay Tick Aware

Casey Kelley, MD, the Treasurer on the board of the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS),  a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM), Founding Member of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM), faculty at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, and Founder of Case Integrative Health, talked ticks with Ranger Ready in honor of Lyme Disease Awareness Month. 

We often talk about the physical ailments of tick-borne illness, and leave out the piece on mental health. Can tick-borne disease cause a decline in mental health like anxiety, depression, etc? 

Yes, Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections can infiltrate the central nervous system and manifest neurologically. Many psychiatric disorders - paranoia, dementia, anxiety, depression, OCD - are all linked to Lyme disease. These are symptoms of the infection and often resistant to normal antidepressant medications. As you treat these infections, it is common to have a herxheimer reaction or die-off reaction from the treatment. This causes a cytokine storm (and therefore inflammation) which can make your symptoms worse. 

Herxheimer support such as glutathione, charcoal, epsom salt baths, and other anti-inflammatories like turmeric can help during these flare ups. Please be mindful if anxiety or depression are some of your main symptoms - talk to your doctor and family about action plans to have in place if these symptoms get intolerable and if you start to develop suicidal ideation. 


Ticks carry over 350 diseases- while I am certainly not a doctor, I do know that it can be tricky to know what infection is causing what symptom. Do you frequently see co-infections in patients that also have Lyme disease? 

When I tell people that ticks carry multiple pathogens, they are often shocked. Thankfully as the tick population grows at such a fast paced rate, so has awareness around the dangers of a tick-bite and Lyme disease. What we need to see more of, is awareness around co-infections. 

If you’ve never heard of a co-infection before- it really is as simple as it sounds: A co-infection is a disease that is transmitted by the bite of an infected tick, in which you can also get Lyme disease from. It’s important to remember that even if you test negative for Lyme disease, if you are experiencing Lyme disease-like symptoms, you should be tested for other infectious pathogens. Most of my patients infected with Lyme disease are also infected with co-infections like Babesiosis, Bartonella and Ehrlichiosis. 

While everyone is at risk of contracting Lyme disease. Children are at a particularly high risk. While children go through “growing pains” it can be difficult to separate out tick-borne illness symptoms and regular aches and pains. If a child is bit by a tick, what should I monitor for in the days, weeks or months after? 

Children spend so much time outside- as they should! The best way to avoid a tick bite is to practice good tick prevention. Prior to sending your kids outside, proper protective and preventive measures are invaluable. Make sure to wear a non-toxic EPA-registered tick repellent and spray your clothes with Permethrin (like Ranger Ready's Picaridin 20% body-worn repellent and Permethrin 0.5% clothing treatment). This is nontoxic for humans, and provides a layer of protection. 

While we can practice good prevention skills, there is no fool-proof way to avoid a tick bite. If your child is bitten by a tick and presents with a “bullseye” rash, do not hesitate to seek medical attention right away. If your child presents with no rash, (less than 50% of those that are infected with tick-borne illness present with a classic bullseye rash) watch your child for a fever, chills, flu-like symptoms, muscle and joint pain and increasingly temperamental behavior.