Lyme Disease: 9 of the Most Common Myths Debunked

Written by Christine Bishara MD

It is a common misconception that tick season and Lyme disease are only prevalent during the summer months. However, this is far from the truth. While the peak season is typically considered to be from May to August, there is also a significant second peak season from October to November. Additionally, the possibility of being bitten by a tick exists throughout the year, depending on the climate. In fact, milder winters can result in worse peak seasons, as ticks tend to thrive better in such weather conditions. It is important to be aware of these facts in order to take necessary precautions and protect oneself from the disease.

Lyme disease is a serious condition that can cause acute infections. Symptoms of the disease may include fever, headaches, rash and joint pain. However, what makes it particularly concerning is the potential for long-term complications such as cardiac and neurological issues, as well as chronic joint pain. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions surrounding Lyme disease that can lead to misunderstandings about the nature and severity of this illness.

Let’s take a look at 9 of the most common myths. 


  1. Lyme disease is limited to the Northeast region, which is a common misconception In fact, it has been reported in all 50 states of the US and various regions of Canada. It should be noted that certain parts of the West coast have occurrence rates as high as in the Northeast.
  1. It’s a common misconception that if you don’t spot a tick on your body, you won’t get Lyme disease. However, many people who suffer from Lyme disease don’t remember being bitten by a tick, which is why it’s crucial to perform a daily check after being outdoors.
  1. If your Lyme disease test result comes back negative, it means that you don’t have the disease. Lyme disease is identified in the body by measuring the levels of antibodies, not the actual bacteria that causes the illness. A false negative result can occur if the test is taken too early, before the body has developed enough antibodies.
  1. No initial rash means you won’t get Lyme disease. In fact, studies show that around 70% of people who contract Lyme disease do not develop the characteristic “bullseye” rash commonly associated with tick bites.
  1. There is only a single type of tick that can cause an infection. This is a misnomer and there are actually many different types of ticks that can carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
  1. You’re likely to get Lyme disease if you get bitten. Lyme disease happens in 0 – 50% of those bitten, with those in areas with a higher epidemic closer in the upper end of the 50% infection rate.
  1. Lyme disease is the only tick borne infection. This is not only a myth but there are numerous tick borne diseases, some of which are even more prevalent in certain parts of the country. These include examples such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Alpha gal allergy, in a tick saliva which can induce a serious and sometimes life threatening immune response to a sugar substrate.
  1. Once an individual has been bitten, there isn’t any way to prevent contraction of Lyme. A one time administration of the antibiotic called Doxycycline, if given within 72 hours of a tick bite, has an efficacy rate of 87%. 
  1. If you remove the tick immediately, there’s still a possibility of contracting Lyme disease. If the tick has been attached to your skin for less than 24 hours or even as long as 36 hours, the likelihood of developing the disease is significantly low. This is because it takes some time for the bacteria that causes Lyme to transfer from the tick to the host.


  • Wearing clothing with more body coverage when going hiking or walking in wooded areas or near wooded areas. Such as, pants instead of shorts, and long sleeved shirts instead of short sleeves. 
  • Do a daily body scan after being in higher risk areas. This is probably the most effective and important step since the likelihood of catching an infection is low when a tick is found early on. If you’re alone, have a partner check you and use the mirror in a bathroom and a smaller second mirror if need be to scan areas typically out of view such as your back, and back of legs. It is also important to consider checking your pet if they spend time outdoors.
  • Remove and change clothes as soon as you return home in case there is a tick remaining on your clothing. An extra precautionary step which can be taken is to wash your clothing after being in high risk areas, as well as, throwing them in the dryer to kill any possible ticks.
  • Ticks love areas which are moist, so be sure to thoroughly check areas such as your hair, back of the knees, under your armpits, the groin area, and in between the toes.
  • Spraying 20-30% Deet is helpful when in higher risk areas. Spraying it on your clothing is an option to avoid direct contact with skin, but be sure you don’t spray Deet near your nose or mouth so you don’t inhale it. 
  • Other very effective options are Natural tick repellents which include applying peppermint scented oils, Citronella, Cedar oil, and or Eucalyptus to your skin when outdoors.


In the event that you discover a tick on your skin, it is important to remain calm and take the appropriate measures to remove it safely. To do so, use a pair of tweezers to firmly grasp the tick and pull it straight upwards. Avoid wiggling the tick during removal, as this could cause it to regurgitate saliva and increase the risk of infection. If the tick’s head remains embedded in the skin after removal, resist the urge to manipulate it and allow it to naturally work its way out. While some sources have suggested using peppermint oil to facilitate tick removal, this method has drawn controversy among experts who suggest it may have the opposite effect and increase the risk of infection.


Preventing tick bites and reducing exposure to ticks is the best defense against Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections. By following the preventative measures listed above, the risk of being infected by a tick and catching Lyme disease can be significantly reduced. If you suspect you may have already been exposed to a tick bite contact a medical professional immediately. Lyme disease affects both humans and animals, and timely diagnosis and early management is of the utmost of importance.