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Found A Well-Fed Deer Tick On Yourself? Quickie Antibiotics Aim To Prevent Lyme

This article is more than 7 years old.

Please forgive this overdose of tick talk, but WBUR is running a series on the dramatically growing problem of Lyme disease this week, and it strikes me as a particular public service to highlight this useful bit of information from Sacha Pfeiffer of All Things Considered:

If you find an engorged deer tick on you, and it's likely that it's been there more than 24 hours — and thus long enough to transmit Lyme disease — it's now accepted medical practice in areas where Lyme disease is endemic (like all of Massachusetts) to give you a single preventive dose of antibiotics aimed at stopping the infection before it takes hold.

Sacha's full interview with Dr. Jonathan Edlow, an emergency physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, about treatment for possible exposure to Lyme, is here: What to do if you think you've been exposed to Lyme disease. Dr. Edlow is the author of "Bull's-Eye: Unraveling the Medical Mystery of Lyme Disease."

Key excerpt from the interview:

So if there's a concern that a patient may have been exposed to Lyme disease, but it's too early for that patient to have symptoms, what is the treatment?

The treatment for a tick bite — assuming that the tick has been on you for at least 24 hours, it hasn't been on you for more than 72 hours, and it's a deer tick — would be 200 milligrams of doxycycline for an older child or an adult. Treatment at that stage is really to prevent Lyme disease.

But if a person is showing Lyme symptoms, such as a rash or a fever and muscle aches, is that patient beyond the window of time in which a small dose of antibiotics can possibly help?

That's correct. The 200-milligram dose of doxycycline is to prevent Lyme disease. What you're describing — having symptoms of a rash or a fever — that's established Lyme disease and requires a longer course of antibiotics.

This program aired on June 27, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.

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