Do You Need Lyme Disease Preventative Antibiotics?

Knowing When to Take Antibiotics for Lyme Disease

The idea of getting Lyme disease from a tick bite is frightening. It’s clear that the earlier you are treated the better chance you have of a full and rapid recovery. Since Lyme disease tests don’t provide accurate results early on and can be unreliable how can you know when you need treatment?

In the excerpt below Dr. Jonathan Edlow, an emergency physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, answers questions from Sacha Pfeiffer regarding early treatment of Lyme disease.Pills

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 [but] 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.

What about the message that the medical community has been sending for years — that overuse of antibiotics can contribute to the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria? Could we be contributing to that problem by having people take small doses of antibiotics as soon as they think they’ve been bitten?

I think taking a 200-milligram dose of Doxycycline one time is very unlikely to contribute to all of the badness that we are creating on our planet based on resistance patterns of antibiotics. To the extent that we’re preventing a disease that we would then be treating for 10 days or two weeks or three weeks of antibiotics, we’re eliminating the need for a longer course of antibiotics.
– via wbur

Prevention is Even Better Than Cure

It’s good to know that Doxycycline can be used to prevent the start of Lyme disease if you have been bitten by a deer tick and can be used to treat the disease over a longer course once it starts. However, the best course is to prevent getting Lyme disease.

If you live in an area where Lyme disease is common or visit one and are outdoors in areas where ticks could thrive, the suggestions below about preventing infection and when to seek medical treatment are worth consideration.Pills

Perform a tick check and remove attached ticks:

The transmission of B. burgdorferi (the bacteria that causes Lyme disease) from an infected tick is unlikely to occur before 36 hours of tick attachment. For this reason, daily checks for ticks and promptly removing any attached tick that you find will help prevent infection. Embedded ticks should be removed using fine-tipped tweezers. DO NOT use petroleum jelly, a hot match, nail polish, or other products. Grasp the tick firmly and as closely to the skin as possible. With a steady motion, pull the tick’s body away from the skin. The tick’s mouthparts may remain in the skin, but do not be alarmed. The bacteria that cause Lyme disease are contained in the tick’s midgut. Cleanse the area with an antiseptic.

Taking preventive antibiotics after a tick bite:

The relative cost-effectiveness of post-exposure treatment of tick bites to avoid Lyme disease in endemic areas (areas where the disease is known to occur regularly) is dependent on the probability of B. burgdorferi infection after a tick bite. In most circumstances, treating persons who only have a tick bite is not recommended. Individuals who are bitten by a deer tick should remove the tick and seek medical attention if any signs and symptoms of early Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, or babesiosis develop over the ensuing days or weeks.
– via MedicineNet

Do you do daily tick checks for yourself and your family when you have spent time outdoors?