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How Lyme Disease Is Like a Hurricane

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We are in hurricane season again. Hurricanes are a specific type of weather phenomena characterized by lots of water and high winds. Hurricane Dorian recently swept up the Carolina coast, bringing havoc in its wake. The experience of Lyme disease is like a hurricane; it comes on high intensity and does damage. The more time the Lyme stalls and stays with you, the more harm it does. Lyme and co-infections require action plan to prevent damage, thorough treatment during active infection, and most importantly, support and resources to recover and rebuild.

Hurricanes’ Breakdown of Healthy Communities

Many governments have learned the hard way about the long term damage a storm can cause. I remember traveling to visit relatives in 2002, 10 years after Hurricane Andrew devastated Homestead, Florida. Driving down the road we could still see street lights bent over at a 90-degree angle and houses boarded up with numbers spray-painted on the plywood. We as visitors were shocked, but the locals didn’t even notice. Damaged was their new reality. Homestead was severely injured and 10 years later had yet to recover fully.

Katrina unleashed on New Orleans in 2005. My jaw dropped when I saw the Superdome on TV. It had been made over into a refugee center and hardly resembled the glamorous stadium I remembered from my previous visits. Hurricane Katrina displaced an NFL team as well as a community and families.

In 2017 Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico’s economy, land and necessary support systems. Thousands died from the storm and the lack of preparation that kept much of the island without power and medical infrastructure for a year. These hurricanes were in the news for a short period, but our attention cycle is short. We move on while these broken communities struggle to muster the will and resources to forge their recovery.

Lyme Like a Hurricane?

Lyme can be unpredictable, dark and stormy. Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses can have dreadful consequences that derail lives and bankrupt families. Under the right set of conditions a bite from an infected tick can deliver multiple harmful pathogens into our bloodstream. Our immune system is overwhelmed and we are infected. The infections and coincident inflammation do a lot of damage over time.

After an initial assault, if you don’t manage the problem, repair and rebuild the infection goes deeper and interferes with your quality of life. Just as you prepare for a hurricane a with emergency supplies and evacuations, anyone who lives in a high tick population area should get organized and protect yourself from tick-borne illness.

Prepare and Protect — Tick Bite Protection Strategies

Minimize Contact

  • Proceed with caution in tick habitat
  • Dress to minimize ticks and stop and inspect and remove ticks. If you are finding too many ticks, leave the area.
  • Make your yard less insect-friendly
  • Clean up wood and leaf piles. Use plantings and grooming to discourage ticks.


  • No bite, no transmission. There are many effective repellents and pesticides. Be sure to read and follow the instructions.
  • Remove any attached ticks upon discovery. Contain and save the tick for testing. Seek medical assistance as soon as possible.

Find and Remove

  • Inspect regularly when outdoors.
  • Take a regular look for spots or crawling ticks.
  • Remove ticks before they break the skin, attach and feed.
  • Detach any ticks as soon as you notice them.
  • Ticks transmit disease as part of their feeding process, so the sooner you remove them, the better.
  • If you can’t do this safely because the tick is in an awkward location, get some help immediately.

Deal With the Damage

  • Treat infections.
  • Treat all tick borne illness seriously. Advocate for the help you need. Listen to the advice of your health care team and take all medications and supplements as prescribed.
  • Watch for signs of recurrence down the road. Symptoms may indicate ineffective treatment or reinfection.

Invest in Recovery

  • Shore up infrastructure. Put together a strong health care team.
  • Chronic Lyme, in particular, can damage essential systems in the body. You need high-quality nutrition and specific support to rebuild and recover.

Don’t settle for partial recovery

Keep on working to feel your best. Just as the news cycle moves on from the hurricane shortly after the event, people also want to move on from Lyme disease quickly. Long term Lyme weakens and depletes; you may feel OK, but your reserves and resiliency are gone. If you don’t thoroughly rebuild, Lyme can hurt your health and your life for a long time. Don’t get taken down by the severe weather that is Lyme disease. Continue to work to reclaim your best self.

Getty image by MikeMareen.

Originally published: September 24, 2019
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