11 Ways to Lower Your Risk for Lyme

Protect Yourself Against Lyme Disease: 7 Tips

Photo courtesy of lymediseaseguide.net.

In my last post, I shared my daughter’s story and tips to help you catch Lyme disease early. But how can we protect ourselves from getting it in the first place? Studies show at least 20% of people with Lyme disease don’t remember a rash, and the number could be as high as 73%.

And, unfortunately, the other symptoms can mimic everything from the flu to rheumatoid arthritis. Many with Lyme have been misdiagnosed with depression, multiple sclerosis, or chronic fatigue syndrome.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease by Lyme BlueSo how can we decrease our chances of getting this debilitating disease? I wish I could tell you the tips are easy, but for busy moms and nature-lovers like me, they certainly aren’t. However, they might just prevent our minds and bodies from giving out on us before their time.

So here they are! The more we do, and the more often we do them, the more we’ll lower our risk of getting Lyme disease.

When hiking, playing outdoors, or doing yard work from the spring through the fall, take the following precautions:

Wear hats, long-sleeved shirts, and pants tucked into socks. (Lighter-colored clothing is best, because it makes it easier to see the ticks.)

Size of Blacklegged Ticks: Nymph, Adult, and Larva

Photo courtesy of cdc.gov.

• Wear shoes—no flip-flops, sandals, or bare feet—and spray them with permethrin every six weeks. (This tip is one of the easier ones, but it’s been shown to have a big impact.)

Pre-treat your clothes with permethrin and use EPA-approved insect repellent on your body. (Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, or lemon eucalyptus oil are most effective.)

Walk in the center of trails to avoid brush, tall grass, and leaf litter.

Don’t sit on logs or lean against trees.

Tick Hotspots: Where to Check for Ticks

Photo courtesy of hikeitbaby.com.

• After being outdoors, check yourself and your children for ticks. Don’t forget hidden places like the underwear area and scalps, armpits, and belly buttons.

Bathe or shower within two hours of coming inside.

Toss your clothes in a dryer for 5-10 minutes to kill any ticks that may have traveled inside with you.

Plan ahead:

Avoid tick-infested areas from May through July when the nymphs are feeding. (Nymphs are the main disease-carrying stage of the deer tick.)

Deer Ticks Life Cycle and Risk of Infection

Photo courtesy of cdc.gov.

• If you live in a high-risk area, hire a professional to spray for ticks between mid-May and early June.

Discourage deer from coming into your yard through building fences and removing plants they enjoy eating.

Photo courtesy of bugspray.com.

Those are the best tips I’ve found for preventing this debilitating disease. I don’t expect us to do all of them, but every one we do will help lower our risk of getting Lyme. 

For more information about Lyme disease, read “Lyme Disease! What It Is & Why You Should Care.”

Lyme Disease: Our Story

The Brunke Family: Mark, Christy, Michaela, and Angelina

Family picture from November 2014, just months before we moved to Maryland. Photo by Stephanie Kuecker.

What are your greatest fears?

Since we moved to Maryland in May 2015, one of mine has been that my husband, daughters, or I would get Lyme disease. We had traded the cold, crime, and bad traffic of Chicago for an adversary the size of a sesame seed. How could we fight a foe we could barely see?

Lyme Disease Risk in the United States

Photo courtesy of myblindspotjourney.wordpress.com.

As you may know, Lyme disease is spread through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Also known as “deer ticks,” these bugs are much smaller than other ticks. Depending on the stage of their development, they range in size from a pinhead to an apple seed.

But the damage they cause can be life-changing. Our neighbor had to retire early and still suffers from pain in his back and knees. A sweet friend from church struggles with brain fog, debilitating fatigue, and physical limitations. Combined, these problems led to her having to go on disability.

In both their cases, they had Lyme disease for years before it was diagnosed. And untreated Lyme disease can cause arthritis, meningitis, nerve paralysis, and even heart problems.

Later signs and symptoms of Lyme diseaseIn contrast, the CDC says, “People treated with appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of Lyme disease usually recover rapidly and completely.” Hence, the incredible importance of discovering the disease quickly.

Five years ago, my father also contracted Lyme disease, but his story gives us hope. Because he realized what it was within a week, he was able to recover from it without any permanent damage.

His story and ours are why I’m writing this blog: to help you recognize the disease early before it wreaks havoc on your health. Even more important perhaps, for parents, is to recognize it in your little ones.

Seven-year-old girl with her baby bearded dragon.

Michaela on her seventh birthday–Tuesday, August 28, 2018–with her baby bearded dragon.

Our seven-year-old, Michaela is strong, energetic, and independent. She delights us with her inventiveness, her creativity, and her surprising and perceptive observations.

But winter mornings with her can prove challenging. Even if it’s literally freezing outside, she almost never wants to wear a coat. To prove she doesn’t need one, she’ll stand on our deck for .2 seconds and say, “See? It’s not cold!”

But on the way home from her late August birthday party, she started complaining she was cold. The next day, on the way home from the zoo, she said the same. That evening—the Friday before Labor Day—she was hot to the touch. I took her temperature, and it was 103.4 degrees.

Seven-year-old girl at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

Michaela at the Maryland Zoo the day we discovered she was sick.

My husband, Mark, checked her from head to toe and found nothing unusual. Since her doctor’s office had closed by that time, he took her to a clinic, and they concluded she had a virus.

On Labor Day, after days of no symptoms except chills, fatigue, and fevers, I discovered a rash. At first, I thought it might just be a pressure mark from her long nap on Mark’s recliner. The middle of the night proved that theory wrong.

Just after midnight, Michaela came into our bedroom crying. Her head hurt, and her fever had spiked to 103.9. I checked the oval red mark on the back of her upper thigh, and it was still there.

I gave her medicine and a lukewarm bath and left a voice mail for the on-call pediatrician. When he called back, he advised me to bring her in first thing in the morning.

Seven-year-old girl 24 hours after starting antibiotics.

Michaela eating lunch 24 hours after starting antibiotics. You can still see the red circles around her eyes, but her bright smile is back and her hair is messy, because she was playing superheroes.

I did, and another doctor examined her and ruled out common causes of fever. Then she called in a third doctor to check out the rash, which was clearing in the center. They agreed she probably had early Lyme disease and started her on antibiotics.

(Diagnostic blood tests aren’t usually accurate until four to six weeks after infection, so they start treatment for early Lyme disease based on your symptoms.)

Most importantly, since the doctors think we caught it very early, they don’t predict any long-term problems. And because I want you to catch it early too, here are my main tips:

First, don’t just check for the rash once. The circular red area usually takes 3 to 14 days to appear after the tick bite and can appear as late as 30 days later. Some people never get the rash.

Second, don’t forget to check your scalp and areas where your skin creases when you stand.

Third, don’t assume it has to look like a bull’s-eye. The erythema migrans can take many forms (see the chart below).

Erythema migrans can present itself in many forms.In my dad’s case, his rash looked like a normal rash but then spread to other parts of his body. In Michaela’s case, the rash didn’t appear until several days after her symptoms started. If your fever or a loved one’s persists, check for the rash again and see your primary care physician.

So now we know a little more about how to catch Lyme disease early. But how do we prevent ourselves and our loves ones from getting it in the first place? Check out 11 Ways to Lower Your Risk for Lyme.

The Final Race Interview (Part Three): Feature Film

Eric Liddell Biography: Eric Eichinger's The Final RaceHas God ever given you a seemingly impossible dream?

In my concluding interview with the author of The Final Race, he explains the twists and turns the screenplay version of the story has taken. (Did you miss the first two interviews? Read about crossroads first then China here second!)

Eric, when the Lord called you to tell the conclusion of Liddell’s story, what led you to first write a screenplay?

People often say, “write what you know.” I shared so many commonalities and experiences with Liddell, I thought, who better to write about this?

I had a theatre degree from Michigan State University and, at the time, was working on my Masters of Divinity at Concordia Seminary. And I have always loved film.

Everything came together in my mind, and I decided to set out on the great adventure of telling this story at the highest art level we have, cinema.

Absolute Surrender Film ad with Howie KlausnerHow did you then come to write the book version?

I was throwing pebbles at the windows of Hollywood for a while without much success. I happened to go to a film festival in Naples, Florida and made some wonderful connections, one of whom became my agent. She suggested I write a book version of the script, so I wrote that first.

Eventually, she shopped that to the publishing houses. Tyndale liked the concept, but desired more of a biographical approach. We agreed to the terms, and the rest is history.

Eric T. Eichinger with co-author Eva Marie Everson

Eric with agent Rebeca Seitz (left) and co-author Eva Marie Everson at a book launch party.

Tell us about your partnership with director, screenwriter, and film producer Howie Klausner. He’s had an important role in some major motion pictures like Soul Surfer, The Grace Card, and The Secret Handshake. Most noteworthy, he wrote the script for the 2000 Clint Eastwood film, Space Cowboys. How did you first start working with him?

He’s a busy guy. At the moment, he’s working on Reagan (which he also wrote) starring Dennis Quaid.

I met Howie at the aforementioned film festival. We hit it off in conversation. I pitched him my idea, and he really liked it as he has always loved Chariots of Fire as well.

Eric T. Eichinger with actor Jim Caviezel

Eric T. Eichinger (right) with actor Jim Caviezel.

Finally, Eric, what’s the next step in turning this Chariots of Fire sequel into a movie? Do you have a tentative release date?

It’s very hard to get a publishing deal, and it’s exceedingly more difficult to get a film made today without a blockbuster comic book superhero.

The screenplay has some heat and has taken a few interesting creative twists along the way.

Christian Olympian Eric Liddell crossing the final line.

Photo courtesy of eastdailyoffice.wordpress.com.

All I can say now is, originally, I wanted to tell the story of Eric Liddell, because he inspired me so much. Hollywood seems more interested in telling the story of how I was inspired by Eric Liddell. [Tweet that!] Stay tuned!

Readers, want to learn more? Watch this short Youtube video where Eric talks to Howie Klausner on the set of The Identical!​ Just click here!

The Final Race Interview (Part Two): China

Eric Liddell Biography: Eric Eichinger's The Final RaceHas God ever redirected your path?

In my interview with the author of The Final Race, he shares how God changed his course from one continent to another. There, in China, he met the love of his life and walked the ways of his longtime hero, Eric Liddell. [Tweet that!]

Eric, when did God first call you to teach English in China? Did Eric Liddell’s story inspire you?

I was working in New York at the time and preparing for overseas mission work with my denomination. I was interested in Germany, but there were no slots available. They suggested China, which did not appeal to me at all.

Over time, I began to fall in love with the idea of serving in China. Then, last minute, an opportunity in Germany opened up! All of a sudden, I had a tough choice to make.

During that deliberation, I remembered Liddell was a missionary in China, and that comforted me. I asked the mission board where they would most like to place me. “China,” they said. “Then send me to China,” I responded.

Christy Brunke and Eric T. Eichinger in China

Me (far right) and Eric T. Eichinger (left, sitting) enjoying a meal at Connie Mom’s house during the years we lived in China.

Tell us about your tour of Eric’s old haunts. What struck you the most as you quite literally followed in his footsteps?

I spent time with his daughters in Toronto and trotted around one of the fields where he used to race track meets. His niece also gave me a personal tour of his church and other places in Edinburgh, Scotland.

But I would say the most powerful episode was standing in the very hospital where he died in Wei Fang, China. I had come to the end of his story, and I knew I wanted to do something about it.

Eric Liddell Memorial in Wei Fang, China

A Memorial to Eric Liddell in Wei Fang.

How did Eric’s three daughters respond when you reached out to them? How did you first get in touch with them?

Eric Eichinger with Eric Lidell's daughters: Patricia, Heather

Eichinger with Liddell’s daughters Patricia Russell (center) and Heather Ingham. (Photo courtesy of PRnews.com.)

I emailed them via the leadership at the Eric Liddell Centre in Edinburgh. Eventually, I visited them in Toronto and have kept in touch with updates over the years.

At first, they were skeptical of my motivations and protective. Many “like me” had irritated them in the past. They warmed up soon enough, and, to my delight, have given exceedingly positive reports of what I’ve written.

How did you meet your wife, Kara? In what ways is your love story like Liddell’s? In what ways is it unlike his?

Aside from meeting in China, I would say we both had to endure long seasons apart from each other. It was a bittersweet blossom of romance.

Eric Liddell and Florence Mackenzie wedding

Eric Liddell with his bride Florence Mackenzie. (Photo courtesy of myvoiceinpen.wordpress.com.)

Do you ever plan to return to China? If so, in what capacity?

Kara and I have led one mission team to China since. Eventually, we would love to share the experience with our children. Beyond that, I’ll let God decide. He knows where to find me.

In my final interview with Eric, we discuss the movie version he’s working on with Howie Klausner. Click here to read it now!

The Final Race Interview (Part One): Crossroads

Eric Liddell Biography: Eric Eichinger's The Final RaceHow does your life intersect with that of your favorite hero or heroine?

In my last blog, I reviewed The Final Race, a brilliant biography about Eric Liddell. This week, I have the privilege to ask author Eric T. Eichinger how his life intersects with the life of his longtime hero.

Eric, in The Final Race, you described how seeing Chariots of Fire when you were eight made you an “instant fanatic of Eric Liddell.” Did your parents name you after the famous Olympian?

Chariots of Fire 1981 Movie Poster

Photo courtesy of dvdsreleasedates.com.

No, that was a serendipitous coincidence.

What was it about him that so impacted you?

It was inspiring to see a fellow Christian portrayed in such a dramatic and heroic way [Tweet that!], particularly the running set to the iconic music of Chariots of Fire. In general, there weren’t a lot of major movies that positively showcased Christianity.

My formative church was like Liddell’s as depicted in the film: liturgy, proper dress, and singing hymns out of hymnals. It offered me a vivid picture of what an adult Christian could be like.

Photo courtesy of trinitygracechurch.net.

The fact that I was a swift runner and shared the same name all but sealed the deal of fascination for me.

Did you ever aspire to be an Olympian?

Every runner that achieves a certain level of success at the university level peeks around that corner of fantasy. To win a gold medal on the highest stage for one’s country . . . sigh.

I flirted with breaking the 4-minute mile, offering up a 4.04 personal best. But I knew another 15 seconds would need to be shaved off for any serious Olympic attempt.

In what ways are you and Eric most alike?

We share several similarities including our first name, running at a high level, and serving and teaching in China. Plus, we both became ordained ministers, wrote a book, and met our respective wives in China.

Eric Eichinger, pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church

Eric T. Eichinger speaking at Bethel Lutheran Church.

In what ways are you different?

Probably our theology. Early on, Liddell possessed more of a rigid understanding of the Law of God’s Word.

The degree to which he observed the Sabbath is well known and documented, but this also spilled into his everyday spiritual walk. He lived a life of strict obedience to God’s Word. His relentless quest for perfection bordered on a works righteousness mentality.

Ultimately, he warmed to some Gospel grace tendencies in his later years.

Eric T. Eichinger, author of The Final Race

Author Eric T. Eichinger

My theology is more balanced with a constant tension between the Law & Gospel of God’s Word. I spend a great deal of time musing on the intersection between how I stand before Christ— a 100% passive righteousness received from God—and how I interact with the world— an active righteousness of my own service.

What quality of Eric’s do you most want to imitate?

He seemed to cheerfully make time for all in every circumstance. I can tend to be more selfish with my time.

Want to know more about Eric Liddell’s and Eric Eichinger’s years in China? Check out our second interview here! Eichinger shares how God called him to China, how he met Liddell’s daughters, and how he retraced Liddell’s steps in China, Scotland, and Canada. Don’t miss it!