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A Lyme Disease and Climate Change Story

A Lyme Disease and Climate Change Story

Written by Ronnie Citron-Fink

A Lyme Disease and Climate Change Story

The summer before my daughter started middle school, she began complaining about headaches, nausea, achy joints, and fatigue.

Her pediatrician couldn’t find anything wrong with her. But the symptoms got worse—low-grade fevers, dizziness, heart palpitations, sleeplessness. One day, she woke up and said one side of her face felt “ghostlike”—she couldn’t feel it.

Lyme disease was just beginning to garner attention in the Hudson Valley of New York, where we live. I had read a tick bite could induce a multitude of symptoms that mimic other diseases. A few years later, local reporter, Mary Beth Pfeiffer wrote, “Lyme: The First Epidemic of Climate Change.” The book drew a direct link between climate change and Lyme disease. Pfeiffer wrote, “There is a great deal of scientific evidence that shows this correlation between a warming world and the spread of, and proliferation of, ticks.”

Let me break here to say that as a mom, I was in a state of panic. I knew my daughter, who had been extremely healthy, was now very, very sick. I wanted to do everything within my power to find her the help she needed. She needed antibiotic treatment. But at the time, without the typical Lyme disease “bull’s-eye” rash, local doctors were skeptical. Lyme treatment was “experimental,” and my insurance company would not cover the cost of antibiotics.

We brought her to a pediatric Lyme disease specialist affiliated with a large NYC teaching hospital (not covered by our health insurance plan). He confirmed what we suspected—my daughter had undiagnosed Lyme disease. And she was displaying debilitating neurologic symptoms, particularly, Bell’s palsy.

That year, my daughter missed the first 6 months of 6th grade. But with the help of a caring doctor and visiting nurses who taught us to how to administer intravenous antibiotics at home, we nursed her back to health.

She is now symptom-free. And as a new mom herself, she is vigilant about preventing tick bites and removing attached ticks immediately from her family.

It’s my hope that these prevention strategies from our new Lyme disease and tick-borne illnesses resource will help other parents keep their kids stay safe and healthy:

  • Regular tick checks for after outdoor activity, paying careful attention to the scalp, groin, and armpits.
  • Wearing protective clothing when engaging in outdoor activity in grassy, wooded areas (such as long pants, long sleeved shirts, and hats).
  • Avoiding contact with ticks by walking in the center of trails in wooded areas and avoiding wooded areas with tall grass and leaf litter.
  • Using bug spray. EPA has a tool for finding the right insect repellant for you and your family. Active ingredients vary from natural oils to synthetic agents.



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