Ticks: rumors and murmurs

Sipping green tea and thinking how very interesting it is to be a mother of young ones in today’s America. Naturally from here, I could lead this conversation just about anywhere, but today’s circuit of fascination: Lyme’s disease.

If you grew up around ticks, the idea of checking your children for ticks is quite standard, if not a traditional summer activity. But whether you grew up around them or not, the fact is that today’s parents are facing an outdoors full of ticks with epic levels of Lyme infection.

Lyme is one of those things I’ve started bringing up around other moms, casual-suggestively, to learn if I’m missing something. At a book club, sitting around a long table in a lush backyard, I eagerly leaned in as the woman across from me cataloged all the steps she’d gone through after finding three ticks on her daughter. -But what about sending it to one of the websites? I asked. -Practitioners don’t think those are reliable. False positives. False negatives. -But you can’t prescribe doxy…I murmured. -Our pediatrician is prescribing doxycycline.

This was news to me. I’d been told no pediatricians were prescribing doxycycline to children. Amoxicillin only, though it had no recorded success with Lyme. Her doctor’s office was less than a mile away from mine. And yet, different approaches were happening between the two places. to childrenin ways that would affect them for the rest of their lives.

Of course there’s a reason this is on my mind. I found an engorged tick on one of my children that had been on her for three days. Not having peeked behind her ear for those three days was a one weekend slip-up, with the potential of the worst consequences. I pulled it off perfectly, sent it to tickcheck.com perfectly (although, if you are in this situation, I highly recommend paying extra for it to get there as fast as possible), consulted my pediatrician and waited anxiously perfectly…and received my text message that said the tick did not have one of nine diseases it could have had. It did have one, but it was not one that is considered dangerous in our area (borrelia mayonii). My city pediatrician was surprised I had found this website and sent the tick off quickly. The only reason I had done so was because a friend from Martha’s Vineyard told me too, because where she vacationed this was considered standard procedure. Even though just a few weeks later I was told that these private-enterprise-tick dissection labs are not considered reliable, I am still really glad I sent it. If I still had seen a rash on my child, I would have asked for a Doxy prescription. But those results, paired with no rash, no fatigue, muscle aches, and no fever, gave me confidence to set this worry aside.

“On the West Coast, when it comes to natural disasters, they have earthquakes. The heartland has tornadoes. The South has hurricanes. Here in the Northeast, our natural disaster is Lyme disease,” said Kevin Esvelt, who specializes in a field called evolutionary and ecological engineering at MIT Media Lab.” –CNN 

(except, not quite so regional as that, since Lyme infected ticks are rapidly spreading in the Midwest as well.)

For those who study Lyme disease and see patients with Lyme, signs seem to indicate that there is no pinning this malicious insidious disease down. Maybe you’ll get a rash. Maybe you’ll have a fever. Maybe you’ll see the tick. Maybe you won’t. Maybe it will test positive or negative at tickcheck.com or something similar. Doxycycline is the only known working antibiotic for Lyme. Doxycycline is not recommended to be prescribed to children as it is known to affect bone growth and stains their teeth. However, it is being prescribed because practitioners are now feeling that it is better than having the Lyme go untreated.

And a separate branch of this discussion begins right there: the long untreated cases of Lyme that were ignored or misdiagnosed for years. This branch of the conversation is centering around a lonely and grim theory: Is Lyme disease a Feminist issue? Take One, and take Two.

Researchers and insurers have often insisted not only on positive test results but also on the classic signs of early Lyme infection, such as the distinctive bull’s-eye rash and swollen knee joints, even though many people infected with the spirochete bacterium do not present such signs. Some of the symptoms of “chronic Lyme”—headaches, exhaustion, and cognitive dysfunction—have been dismissed as too vague or too similar to those of other conditions to be accorded diagnostic weight. -The New Yorker (see One above)

It feels overwhelmingly like the general knowledge database is broken here. It feels like it is totally on us to know everything we can.

This is when a light blue filter slides into my mind and I begin to see filmy images of the future, Minority Report style….what if playing in the woods soon looks like children scampering around in permethrin lightweight suits? What if we never get a vaccine and instead genetically alter mice, deer, embryos, whatever we can to introduce inoculation? What if the equivalent of giant weekly bug bombs becomes standard treatment for anything out-of-doors? What if tick immune robot cats are the new housecats?

Then I switch back to my admittedly healthy and yellow filter life in happy Massachusetts. I believe children can still play outside. I don’t believe we have to resort to toxic chemicals on our lawns. I believe it’s still safe to have indoor-outdoor pets. I believe we can catch this disease in the act of infection, and we can treat it. But, I believe we should be talking about it.

In this spirit, I want to mention a few homegrown prevention approaches I’ve encountered recently:

  1. Cistus Tea: made from leaves grown in Eastern Europe, rumored to successfully make human and animal drinkers repellent to ticks.
  2. Elevation: No rumors here. There are fewer ticks at elevations over 1000 ft.
  3. Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Soap: landscapers claim that washing in Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap makes them unappealing to ticks as they hike through the bushes, trimming back overgrowth in yards up and down the east coast. A refreshing soap and a bug repellent? I’ll take it.
  4. Animals: guinea hens (but dang, are they loud!), chickens and possums are all rumored to eat up local tick from your grounds. Whether maintaining these animals as ground control is worth it, is up to you!
  5. Cedar oil: a known effective natural deterrent for household pets, safe around children and pregnant women.
  6. Nightly tick checks for the entire household. Tried and true through the generations.
  7. Insert your tip here! What have you learned?

To close, a link to this excellent recent summary of the options with bug spray, including the general sense that DEET is not so bad after all.

Obvious disclaimers….I am not a doctor, scientist, or professional researcher. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The advice & statements on this blog have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. Any information on this blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

 

 

a few reads

em_emberley crown of Ed Emberley creatures drawn by Lux. 

Start following a few homeschool people on facebook and you’ll be inundated with articles about homeschooling. Here are a few I’ve enjoyed recently…

Confessions of a Former Homeschooling Mom

I think of this one in the morning because she says…

We started every day by snuggling on the couch. There was no yelling at everyone to find their shoes. There was no scrambling to locate homework and lunch boxes. There was no rush. No fuss. No tears. In fact, at the risk of sounding like a homeschool hippie, we started our days in peace and love. What a bunch of weirdos.

Ha! Losing those moments, as it is the same at our house right now, is probably my #1 suspicion of beginning kindergarten next fall.

What changed this teacher’s mind about homeschooling

Having been the only person to be called on for 12 years, she did not use the group’s mass as camouflage, or a barrier, but accepted every question, suggestion, lesson and instruction as her own responsibility.

This one reminded me of myself and how I felt in the classroom, both in high school and college, having been homeschooled up until then.

Haute Home Schools (there seems to be pay block here if you try to read on your phone)

This was just a fun one to read, on the high end of things. You don’t have to build a custom home for it, of course, but Joe and I do talk about hiring tutors for specific subjects that we don’t feel capable of handling ourselves. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Learn Different, on Altschools

This isn’t about homeschooling, but it’s a great overview of where the tech-iest micro-schools are at these days by Rebecca Mead at the New Yorker. The benefits (retroactive omniscience for the teacher!) and pitfalls (tablet frustrations for kindergartners) are just as you might imagine them. Exciting nonetheless.

Reading any good articles lately?

things lost

The melancholy passage of the years tends to change our values as we age, and the awesome backflips of 13 don’t hold the magic they once did; not when compared to the image of a loved one who has since gone absent, say. If I’d had a smartphone with a video camera back in my early adolescence, I doubt that I would have trained it on the things that matter to me now, like the sight of my mother reading in her blue armchair, underlining passages from Proust.

 

I’m still thinking about this quote buried within a mostly anti-technology essay by Walter Kirn from a few weeks ago. I didn’t find most of the essay interesting, or perhaps I just didn’t want to hear it. But since I just finished putting together a book of photos from our little family’s last year, I can’t help but wonder how many times I took the pretty photo, instead of the one that will mean something to me in the future.

Full cart

I’m very pleased with my new-found maternal energy for decorating and all things Christmas-y. Truly when I say to you that last year the extent of our decorating was a bare branch, hung delicately around a bare lightbulb, with six ornaments hanging on it, believe me that whatever dwr sickly-modern image comes to your mind is exactly what it looked like. At the time that seemed perfectly apt to what we needed, given that we travel over the holidays and arrive home in January. And yet, this year I believe I’m following, at the very least, two people on Pinterest who have entire boards devoted solely to twinkly lights. This makes me very happy. I have already informally polled most of my city friends about where they buy their Christmas trees. While I was away in Florida, Joe even bravely attempted a melted-peppermints-into-ornaments DIY. It didn’t turn out whatsoever but we are not deterred.

However, I seem to be one accurate Amazon order away from the reality of all my seasonal daydreams. I don’t like to pull the trigger on Amazon orders too quickly, so I often just pile my cart full of things I definitely need, add one or two things I’m not quite sure about, then mull over the lot of it for a week or two. Each day it sadly occurs to me that the very thing I need is waiting for me in my Amazon cart.

For example, right now we have only one child size spoon even though both girls like using child size spoons. We had three or four at one point in my recent memory, and I can only hope they’ve made their way to a good home because they are with us no longer. Every day I think about the pack of six bamboo spoons I have waiting in my cart. Then, as the presiding arbiter in the household who makes decisions based on complete whimsy and then sticks to them like honey on the bottom of a cabinet, I dole one spoon out to one girl and hand the other girl a fork. After weeks of this, they now eye each other’s utensil closely and then examine their own with some suspicion. It’s not always evident who got the better deal (is pasta better with a spoon or a fork?), and isn’t that just like life, my young grasshoppers? Keep your eyes on your own bowl and you’ll be much more content.

Speaking of other people’s bowls, Boston has yet to be added to these cities where Amazon is hiring butlers to run things to your car or small children to pull red wagons with deliveries or whatever else they are promising to young people in San Francisco who only order iPhone cases and bulk packages of green tea anyway. Between chatting with my brother in NYC and my brother in SF, things seem to be dramatically more efficient for them there, but in a mystifying way. Which is to say that even if I could ask someone to bring over those spoons right away, I’m sure I’d still find something to hem about.

what’s on your homescreen?

a new series wherein I ask friends what apps they use frequently and why. I’m going first, let me know what you think!

rachael_ringenberg_homepageVoice Memo I’ve been using this to record Lux talking to herself and at music class so I can remember the songs for Lux later on.

Google Maps Much subtler on the road than the Apple maps app.

Merriam Webster Good old fashioned knowledge.

Simple a new bank that Joe and I are using because their app is designed to help you save.

Google I use their search app because it’s quicker than the Safari browser.

 

Feedly, Twitter, Instagram Need no explanation, really.

TeuxDeux a to-do app for the daily and the long term. I really love the simplicity of it. In November, they are going to start charging $24-a-year, and I’m up for paying.

Foursquare Better for suggestions of where to eat more than over-saturated Yelp these days.

Notes Compared with TeuxDeux, I use it more for spur of the moment. Great for grocery lists. Intuitively designed not to waste your time when you are just trying to jot things down in the moment.

LevelUp Boston’s preferred pay-with-your-phone app, usually saves me $5-$10 every ten purchases or so.

Petting Zoo Still my favorite kids app, though Lux prefers instagram, especially #puppiesofinstagram.

Kayak for whimsical flight searches, just to satisfy my frequent “how much does it cost to fly to Bali in March?” thoughts.

iQueue it makes zero, ZERO, sense that I have to use a third party app to update my Netflix dvd queue, but there you have it. It works quickly and simply. Recently added: La Vie en Rose, A Nos Amours, Mystic Pizza, Skyfall.

 

 

 

 

 

Booked!

rome_apartment3

I mentioned that we were using the addictively clickable airbnb to find a spot in Rome. Well, I quickly became overwhelmed by the options and let Joe take over. After a couple of late nights, he found this spot and we booked it! It’s the location we wanted, Campo di Fiori, a one bedroom (4th floor walk up, gulp) with a crib, and the perfect patio. It was important to us that we’d be comfortable just staying in most nights since Lux will probably go to bed early.

This patio + salami + extra candles = best restaurant in town.

large-3large-4rome_airbnb

I appreciate that things like a full kitchen and free wifi are assumed with apartment rentals. It’s amazing how hotels sound so lovely when it’s just the two of you, but with a rambunctious kiddo the space of an apartment seems so much more relaxing.

The only sad part for me with a rental v. hotel, and this is just silly, is that you have to go hunting for your breakfast. I’ve been using Elizabeth Minchilli’s Eat Rome app to scout out relaxed bars nearby for breakfast.

 

Valentine’s Day gift swap

Allie is hosting a Valentine’s Day City Swap, in which you swap local gifts from your city with a paired-up stranger. I’ve already signed up, but you have until Friday if you want to join! She did this for Christmas too and had almost 100 people participate. She’s a design blogger so you know her readers have good taste. : )

pretty logo from Allison Lehman’s blog.

comments for the better!

I switched ED comments to the disqus platform (pronounced “discuss”) because I want them to take over the internet.

I like this whole commenting-on-websites-idea more if all the comments I make, ever, are accessible in one place to check back on, follow up, and deliver that last minute zinger before fleeing the scene. I also want my profile to be clearly connected to the social media of my choice, like my blog and my Twitter, in one place (though this is not so good for fleeing the scene).

And it seems like disqus is doing this best right now. I see it on company websites, I see it on tumblr, and I see it on wordpress. I don’t see it on blogger much, but it could be there, if you wanted it. United!

But I dooo apologize for the hassle of creating a new profile, if you haven’t worked with them yet.