Lyme disease on the South Coast: woman traces long list of health issues back to tick bite

Ash Hudson's advice to others not feeling well after a tick bite was to seek help/advice immediately.
Ash Hudson's advice to others not feeling well after a tick bite was to seek help/advice immediately.

“Walk a day in my shoes” is the challenge Ash Hudson has for people who don’t believe Lyme disease exists.

Ash was bitten by what she believes was a tick and was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2014.

Much debate surrounds the condition as the Australian Government has not formally recognised its existence, but sufferers such as Nowra’s Mrs Hudson will tell you the condition is very real.

It makes me angry when people say there is no such thing as Lyme disease - come live in my world for a day.

She saw a chronic disease specialist in Sydney, had blood samples taken, which were sent to America for testing.

The results came back positive for Lyme disease.

“It makes me angry when people say there is no such thing as Lyme disease - come live in my world for a day,” she said.

She got sick in 2007 and was diagnosed seven years later.

Ash started getting headaches, muscle pain and things just got worse.

“On a bad day you just sleep, take a lot of painkillers, you have to take lots of baths to help the pain and you just can’t think straight because of the pain,” she said. 

‘’You can’t stand light or the noise and you are sensitive to the environment around you.’’

Her sense of smell and taste was also knocked around by the condition.

She has a long list of medical issues that can be traced back to her tick bite.

The good news for Ash and her husband Mitch is the impending birth of their first child together, which seems to have helped her.

“There was a slight chance the pregnancy could reset my body.  We are not sure if it the pregnancy has reset my body but it’s helped,” she said.

“I was weaning off painkillers for the last fours years to try and have a baby and then I fell pregnant.

“I am still in a lot of pain but this is the best I felt for a long time.”

Her advice to others not feeling well after a tick bite, was to ask for help-advice immediately. 

“Act fast because it [Lyme disease] can develop down the track,” she said.

NSW Health on how the paralysis tick affects humans

A tick attaches itself by piercing its sharp mouthparts into skin. It then injects an anticoagulant (a substance that prevents blood from forming clots) saliva which allows it to feed without the blood clotting.

In the case of the paralysis tick, the saliva may be highly toxic to some animals and, potentially, humans.

Most tick bites pose no medical problems apart from some localised swelling and redness at the bite site if the tick is removed promptly.

However, in some cases people can experience more severe conditions such as tick paralysis or allergic reactions including anaphylactic shock.

Early symptoms of tick paralysis may include rashes, headache, fever, influenza like symptoms, tenderness of lymph nodes, unsteady gait, intolerance to bright light, increased weakness of the limbs and partial facial paralysis.

Tick paralysis, while rare, is usually seen in children rather than adults. Allergic reactions can result in swelling of the throat, and may lead to breathing difficulties or collapse.

It is important to seek medical attention quickly if such symptoms occur. If you have had similar symptoms in the past after being bitten by a tick, then it is a good idea to always be prepared.

Some serious tick-borne diseases also occur in Australia including, Queensland tick typhus and Flinders Island spotted fever.

There are concerns that other serious illnesses, such as a Lyme disease-like syndrome, may be caused by exposure to Australian ticks, however there is no evidence yet this is the case (Lyme Disease).

Recently a new syndrome known as “tick-induced mammalian meat allergy” has been described, whereby people bitten by the paralysis tick, which is found in coastal eastern Australia, can subsequently develop an anaphylactic reaction to consuming meats and animal by-products such as gelatine.

This syndrome has also been described overseas.

How to prevent tick bites?

The best way to prevent tick bites is to avoid tick-infested areas.

If this is not possible, wear appropriate clothing such as:

  • a long sleeved shirt
  • long pants tucked into socks
  • light-coloured clothing to make it easier to see ticks on clothes before they attach to the skin

Before entering possible tick-infected environments apply an insect repellent containing diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) or picaridin to the skin.

The repellent should be applied and reapplied according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Clothing treated with permethrin is also recommended.

Permethrin wash kits for treating clothes can be obtained from outdoor recreational stores and it is important to follow the label directions.

Permethrin-treated clothing is considered the most effective means of preventing tick bite in tick infested areas.

All clothing should be removed after visiting tick infested areas and placed into a hot dryer for 20 minutes to kill any tick that could be still on the clothing.

The entire body should be then checked for ticks of all sizes and stages, paying particular attention to areas behind the ears and the back of the head or neck, especially on children.

How to remove ticks

When removing a tick with fine tipped forceps (not household tweezers unless fine tipped forceps are not available), grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull upwards with steady pressure and avoid jerking or twisting the tick.

Prior to removal, the tick may be sprayed with an aerosol insect repellent containing pyrethrin or a pyrethroid chemical, although there is currently no evidence to suggest that this is of benefit. Permethrin based creams, which are available from chemists may also be used. Apply at least twice with a one minute interval between applications.

If you have difficulty removing the tick or suffer any symptoms after removal, seek medical attention urgently.

Tips

  • Use only fine tipped forceps and avoid squeezing the body of the tick.
  • Don’t use folklore remedies such as matches or pins because they will irritate the tick and make it harder to completely remove.
  • Avoid scratching and do not use irritant chemicals such as methylated spirits or kerosene.

For more information visit NSW Health.