Lyme disease affects an estimated 476,000* Americans each year.
There are many common misconceptions, along with limited research, funding and support, making Lyme Awareness not only important, but essential.
Why should you spread Lyme Awareness?
1. To educate so people get properly diagnosed
We know there are doctors who are considered Lyme literate and those who may be good doctors but do not believe in Lyme. A common misconception is that Lyme can be cured with antibiotics. For many, this is not the case. Also, if Lyme is not tested for early on or is misdiagnosed, patients are far more likely to have chronic and worsening symptoms that antibiotics can no longer cure. This is why doctors need to understand how crucial it is that they become Lyme literate and learn how to catch it early.
In the same way, patients can advocate for themselves if they know the signs. If you noticed a skin tag or a lump on your body, you would know to worry about the risk of cancer. Many people do not know the signs of Lyme disease, though, and could write their symptoms off as “just the flu.”
Because Lymies were willing to share their stories, they potentially saved Landon’s life. Anyone with Lyme can attest to knowing that the sooner you are treated with antibiotics post tick bite, the better the chance of getting rid of your Lyme disease. Many people don’t know to check their bodies for ticks or what to do when they get a bulls-eye rash. Because Landon received treatment immediately, he was able to avoid chronic symptoms.
2. To help people avoid getting Lyme altogether
Some people do not remember ever being bitten by a tick, but you lessen your chance of getting Lyme if the tick is removed sooner rather than later.
We need to educate the community about checking yourself for ticks after being outside, how to remove ticks, what kinds of environments ticks will be in, and what kinds of precautions they can take against tick bites, such as wearing certain clothing.
3. To get money for Lyme research
As more people understand the importance and impact of Lyme disease, our hope is that more bills regarding Lyme get passed. That would mean more money for research and more money for treatment.
Plus, think about how many ongoing non-profits there are for other diseases. The more people who understand, the more possibility for help and support.
There are also many insurance companies who do not provide coverage for chronic Lyme disease, and we hope that as it becomes more understood, the insurance companies will have no choice but to extend their coverage policies.
4. To help Lymies not feel so isolated in society
When people have cancer, we have an understanding of what steps need to be taken and the support groups act accordingly. There is media coverage and understanding and compassion for those people, and we think that same understanding and compassion is possible for chronic illness sufferers if we share our stories.
People who do not have Lyme do not always understand how serious it is and how debilitating it can be. Employers, friends, colleague, etc may think Lymies are lazy, attention-seeking, or pretending to be sick. This can cause Lymies to feel isolated and misunderstood when they are going through a time in their lives that they could use support more than ever.
5. To create a Lyme community
That being said, the only people who can really understand what living with Lyme is like are the ones who actually live with it. When you spread awareness, you offer support to Lymies who may not know where to turn. Ultimately, these are real people whose lives have been turned upside down—whether someone is newly diagnosed or has been suffering for years.
So how can you raise awareness during Lyme Awareness Month?
1. Shirts and symbols
A simple sticker on your car. A green ribbon in your Instagram bio. A Lyme awareness t-shirt. These things may sound silly, but they send a signal to the world and spark a conversation.
2. Sharing your story in person
Don’t be afraid to speak up! If you feel like you’re burdening others or that they won’t understand, try sharing your story anyways…it could inspire so many people!
3. Sharing your story on social media
Hang a Lyme ribbon in your bio, correcting Lyme misconceptions by commenting on posts or small things you can do like sharing LymeNow content, sharing your treatment plan or personal experiences on your personal page…the list goes on and on.
4. Participating in local community activities/events
Take the time to look up what is going on in your area! You might not be able to always physically be there, but if it’s a good day, you might be able to join in on fundraisers and lectures put on.
5. Signing petitions and writing to local leaders
It may seem like a long shot, but we have to start somewhere. If the Lyme community wants real change, it has to get the attention of local political leaders who have the voice and resources. Many Lymies continue to write and call their leaders until action has taken.
As you can tell, there is so much that can be done to spread Lyme Awareness. However, we know that asking the Lyme community to participate in spreading awareness can be a daunting task. If we all just do a little at a time, we think our voices could collectively change the world.
*According to the CDC