TOPSFIELD, Mass. - A local family is pleading with members of the public to be cautious about ticks and get tested for Lyme disease if they are showing symptoms.
Alexandra Reardon, now 22, had been to more than 30 doctors for medical issues ranging from migraines to joint pain.
Eventually, she was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease, meaning she’s likely had the health issue for a while.
"I never pulled a tick off myself. I never would've thought I would've had Lyme until one doctor believed I did,” she said.
In the past, the majority of infected ticks had been found on Cape Cod and the islands, but that has changed in recent years.
After her diagnosis, her mother Michelle and 18-year-old brother Nicholas also went for testing related to similar symptoms and the results came back positive. Even Alexandra’s father thinks he has chronic Lyme, but his testing was inconclusive.
"Devastating as a parent to watch your children suffer, go from doctor to doctor to doctor and no one can diagnose them. You actually feel like you're going crazy,” Alexandra’s mother Michelle Reardon said.
All three diagnosed family members take a regiment of 36 pills each day, and Alexandra even had an IV picc line threaded to her heart.
"So many people look at me and they think ‘oh, you're fine’ and friends look at me and they say ‘you're not sick because they can't see it on me,’” Alexandra said.
Nicholas, a senior All American at St. John's Prep, initially blamed the joint, back and muscle pain on sports.
"I'm happy I caught it before college because I'm able to be at home when I'm taking all of this medication because I think I take 36 pills a day," he said.
The family isn't sure if the Lyme disease came from the wooded area surrounding their home or somewhere else. They said in the past few days they have found several ticks on their dog after letting him out in the yard.
To prevent tick bites, experts recommend using a bug spray that contains DEET and wearing clothing treated with permethrin if you're going to be outside.
In addition, if you find a tick on your body, you can put it in a plastic sandwich bag and bring it to a doctor for Lyme testing.
In addition to Lyme, each of the Reardons have tested positive for other tick-borne illnesses - something doctors say is not uncommon.
The treatment for Lyme is most effective if it's caught right away.
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