Posts Tagged 'wheelchairs'

Lyme Awareness Tip for Wheelchair Users

Here’s a quick post in honor of Lyme Disease Awareness Month. I hope that anyone reading this who has friends or family who use chairs will pass this along to them (or post this info on boards or forums where there are a lot of wheelies).

Virtually all Lyme disease prevention information includes a tip along the lines of . . .

Tick check yourself after coming in from outside.

The link above says this, and I included this tip in my Lyme Awareness post last May. This is a good tip for the general population, but it is slightly misleading for those of us who use wheelchairs when we’re in the great outdoors.

First, a very brief primer on how ticks come to attach themselves to you or your dog or cat or horse. They do not jump, like fleas, or fly, like mosquitoes. Instead, they crawl on the ground or up the stems of grasses or twigs or leaves, and they wait for a ride/meal to come by.

When a leg or hoof or paw brushes past the blade of grass or leaf they’re clinging to, they grab hold of the cloth or fur, and they’re on their way to their blood-meal. They climb to a good spot, attach, and start their nasty blood-sucking ways.

This is why Lyme prevention materials always say to wear light-colored long pants and sleeves, to tuck your pants into your socks, and to check yourself and your animals as soon as you come inside. Because you want to see the tick, ideally, before it has a chance to get from your clothing to your skin and then under your skin.

The problem is that ticks don’t discriminate between flesh, fur, and fabric versus plastic, rubber, and metal. If it moves past them, they will latch on.

Ticks are perfectly happy to grab hold of a wheel (on a bicycle, wheelchair, or stroller) or any other part of a wheelchair as you make your way — walking the dog, or getting to your van, or preparing to putter in your garden.

This means that you can bring ticks in on your wheelchair, and check yourself when you come in, and find no ticks. You think you’re “safe.” You’re not.

I have, on more than one occasion, come inside, thoroughly tick-checked my body and clothes, found no ticks, and then, hours later, discovered a tick crawling up my leg or on my shirt. Eww.

The reason this occurs should be obvious by now: it often takes the ticks a while to climb from the chair onto the person in the chair.

Here’s another example. Betsy and I always tick-check Barnum and one-another before Betsy goes to sleep. Barnum and I stay up later. We usually have a last training session, I do my infusion and work on a blog or email, take Barnum out to pee (sometimes including a play session in the yard), and then I plug in my chair to charge overnight, and we go to sleep.

My habit is to put my empty water bottles, my pillbox, my dinner things, and my “to do” list for my PCA on my chair next to my bed right before I turn in. In the morning, at the beginning of her shift — while I’m still asleep — my PCA will clear everything off my chair so that my pills, water, food, etc., are ready when I wake up.

Earlier this week, after Betsy had gone to bed, I took Barnum out for his last pee of the night, plugged in my pchair, and went to sleep. The next morning, my PCA told me that she found a tick crawling on my pillbox when she came in to get it. Eww.

The solution is pretty straightforward.

If you are not a person with a fatiguing illness, and you feel physically capable of doing two tick-checks in one day, the best course is to tick-check yourself when you first come in to nab any ticks that have already made it onto you, and then a few hours later, tick-check yourself again to make sure none of the bugs have transferred from your chair onto you in the interim.

However, most wheelchair users — I among them — have limited energy. If you only have the energy and ability to tick-check once a day, it is better to wait a few hours after you have been outside, and then tick-check yourself thoroughly.

You will note that I am not encouraging wheelies to check your chairs for ticks. This is because there are so many parts of a powerchair that are impossible to check that it simply doesn’t make sense. I have tried to check my chair and still found ticks on it or myself later. Eventually, I had to give it up as a bad job. There is too much surface area, and too many places for a blood-sucking critter to hide.

My daily use powerchair. Gray vinyl captains seat with pocket in the back, beat-up black foam armrests, single post connecting seat to base, which is candy-apple red, with gray front-drive wheels and rear casters, and a black footrest and anti-tip wheels in front. Barnum is standing with his front paws on the footplate, looking into the camera.

Just look at all the places a tick could be crawling on this thing without me knowing it!

(Funny note about this picture: I was planning on taking a picture of just the chair. But when I got out the camera and was setting up the shot, Barnum came over and put his paws on the footplate, standing just like that, and it was too cute to resist, so I took the picture. It’s sort of become a theme that even the posts that are not about Barnum, he feels he must be included in all pictures! For example, the same thing happened with my black-bottom pie picture.)

On a manual chair, it might be more possible — you’re not dealing with all those hidden parts in the undercarriage. So, manual wheelies, I live it up to your discretion whether you think it worthwhile to check your chair as well as yourself.

One final note: This information applies to wheelies the world over. Many falsely believe that Lyme disease is an American disease, or a disease of the Northeast or the East Coast of the United States, etc. Sadly, this is not the case. In fact, there are parts of the world (such as certain parts of Europe), where chronic Lyme disease is recognized and treated much better than in the US. On the other hand, in other countries — such as Canada — the myth persists that Lyme “doesn’t happen here.” I know enough Canadians with Lyme to know that’s not the case.

Lyme and tick-borne disease — and the ticks that carry Lyme and other infections — are a global problem. Lyme and other tick-borne diseases affect people not just in every state of the Union, but in Canada, and every continent, including South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. The strains vary somewhat, as the species of ticks vary slightly, but they are all in the same family, and ticks attach themselves to humans, birds, dogs, other mammals, marsupials, etc., the same way the world over. (For more information on this topic, please read the opening chapters of Steven Harrod Buhner’s Healing Lyme, which gives an excellent scientific history of the species of tick and pathogens that cause Lyme, the world over.)

For everyone living or visiting where the ground is not completely covered in ice or snow, it is tick season. Please check yourselves and the other humans and non-humans in your household every day.

-Sharon (recovering? chronic Lymie), the muse of Gadget (chronic Lymie), and Barnum (so far, uninfected), SDiT?

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