By Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The other night, Christine McCullough’s dogs went out, came back in and curled up in her lap.

A short time later, her arm became itchy.

“I thought, ‘What’s that?’

“And I pulled my sleeve up and there was this tick on my arm,” she said.

“The body was just starting to fill up with blood and it was really big and it was at that point, like, elongated and flat and black and I knew right then.

“I tried pulling it off and it wouldn’t come. It just seemed to dig in deeper when I tried to pull it off.”

With some effort, her husband pried the tick off.

The next morning, she had a bull’s eye rash. She immediately went to the emergency room.

“They looked at it, spotted it and said immediately, “Doxycycline, you have Lyme’s disease,’ Christine said about the doctor at the ER. “She didn’t need to see the tick, she didn’t need to do any testing, because the bull’s eye was the sure sign.”

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria carried by the deer tick. You can pick up the tick with outdoor activities, walking in high grass, or a pet could bring it in.

“If you ask veterinarians, they’ll tell you they see a lot of tick, a lot of Lyme disease in dogs,” says Dr. Ruth Perez, Christine’s doctor at the emergency department at Heritage Valley Beaver. “So, I don’t know if there’s more ticks, more Lyme disease in this area than we think, or whether we’ve just had people spot it a little earlier.”

If untreated, Lyme disease can affect the brain, heart and joints.

Christine is lucky the tick was found right away.

“If you’re able to take a tick off within 24 hours, we know that the risk of Lyme disease is very, very low,” Dr. Perez said.

The McCulloughs are extra careful now, checking themselves and checking the dogs after going outside.

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Dr. Maria Simbra