I’ll never know exactly when it was that a tick infected me with Lyme disease, but it must have been about this time a year ago when it happened. I know because the symptoms of Lyme took hold a few weeks later, while we were on a two-week trek through a series of national parks in Arizona and Utah. I’d been looking forward to the trip for over a year and was devastated when I became sick.
I spent most of my visit to Zion National Park and part of my stay at Bryce Canyon, lying in bed, covered in a mysterious rash that left round red circles on my hand, legs, back and arm. I was feverish and exhausted, and convinced that I’d been bitten by an exotic insect on the West coast.
By the time we got to Lake Powell, I was feeling a little better, but the rash was still there and spreading . I went to the front desk, and an EMT was summoned to my room. The fever was gone, and he thought I was having a bout of contact dermatitis. He suggested I go to the medical clinic at the Grand Canyon if my symptoms didn’t improve.
We spent the first morning at the Grand Canyon, seeing doctors. The rash on my upper left arm, they thought, resembled the infamous bull’s eye rash associated with Lyme. They snapped a photo and sent it to a dermatologist in Flagstaff, who said it looked like Lyme and suggested I start taking doxycycline, an antibiotic. They also took a blood sample. I called my doctor at home, who wondered whether it was a condition called erythema multiforme. I had all the classic signs, and he agreed to see me the following week.
Well, the doxycycline made me sick, and I stopped taking it after two days, firm in my belief that what I had was erythema multiforme, not Lyme. By the time I went home a few days later, I felt much better and figured my worst days were over, whatever the problem.
That first Monday at home, the doctor from the Grand Canyon called. I tested positive for Lyme. My doctor at home marveled at the way they had handled my diagnosis and treatment and put me on amoxicillin for three weeks.
Looking back, I am terribly disappointed that I didn’t get to do as much hiking as I would have liked. But I’m also grateful that my condition was caught and treated early. Late-stage Lyme is a nasty disease that can affect the nervous system, the brain and the heart.
So while the weather is glorious now, and it’s prime time to be outdoors, it’s also time to be watchful. Dress appropriately when you’re in the woods or areas with overgrown grass and brush. Inspect your kids, your pets and yourself for ticks. Be suspicious of low-grade fevers, unusual rashes and fatigue. Lyme disease isn’t pleasant. Only by being careful can we protect ourselves and our loved ones .