An unseen danger of the outdoors

Published 12:26 pm Thursday, February 10, 2011

Just about anything worth doing involves some risk, and the outdoors is no exception.

There are the obvious dangers we associate with being outside –– bees, snakes, falls and the like, but I want to spend a little ink talking about a different kind of danger, Lyme disease.

My timing for this column is no accident, but we’ll get to that later. Let me say I have no medical training and certainly am not trying to diagnose any problems you may have, I just want to make people aware of Lyme so they might can avoid the hardships I had to endure.

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I found out in November 2008 that I had Lyme disease. Looking back, I discovered I had probably got Lyme in October or November of 2007. I was at the time an avid deer hunter and had been around several deer covered in deer ticks in those two months. About January 2008, (thus the reason I chose to write this now), I started feeling weak and having a lot of joint pain. I just associated this with everyone telling me it was old age (35).

The joint pain became widespread affecting most of my joints in my hands, wrists and elbows, neck and also my knees. Soon I had a span where my heart felt as though it would skip a beat. This went on for a year till November 2008 when my vision got blurry along with pretty severe headaches.

The symptoms would come and go making it hard to convince myself there was something wrong with me. Finally when my vision was affected, common sense overtook hard-headedness.

Doctors were guessing what was wrong, till I finally found a doctor willing to check me for Lyme after I requested it. The next eight months were spent taking a fairly high dose of antibiotics, which had there own side effects.

Lyme seems to be rather hard to diagnose. Most of the time, a tell-all rash develops called a bull’s eye rash within a few days to six weeks in 70-80 percent of people. Unfortunately, I did not have this.

After this initial period, the symptoms can vary from flu-like symptoms and widespread symmetrical joint pain, to neurological effects of the eyes face and limbs, to irregular heartbeats. The symptoms can come and go and it seems like no two people have the exact same symptoms. Left untreated, Lyme can lead to permanent heart, nerve and joint damage and even death.

Deer ticks are the most common carrier and are small brown ticks usually about the size of a head of a pin. They can be very hard to see, and many people that get Lyme never remember finding a tick on them.

You can help guard yourself from Lyme by wearing insect repellent, doing a visual inspection of yourself when you come in from the outdoors, and if you are a deer hunter, be extra careful when handling a harvested deer.

I can only wish I had run across an article like this when I was experiencing Lyme, I was very ignorant of just how real it was and what to look for. Since my bout with Lyme, I personally know of two other people that have got Lyme. Thankfully they found theirs and began treatment; the earlier the better.

Rob McComas is a licensed North Carolina fishing guide on Lake Lure and Lake Jocassee in S.C. He has been a guide for 11 years. McComas lives with his wife, Amanda, in Sunny View and runs Robs Guide Service. He can be reached at