Archive for the ‘Abortion Information’ Category

Are you concerned about your blood sugar? If the answer is yes, you’re not alone. In fact, after learning that one-third of Americans have prediabetes, it’s probably wise for all of us to read up on blood sugar, how it works, and what we need to do to keep our levels healthy.

In recent years, scientists have established a strong connection between brain health and blood sugar. In fact, Alzheimer’s disease is often referred to as type 3 diabetes and according to the Mayo Clinic News Network: “It’s an accepted fact that people with type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”

And now, a new study published in Science Advancesfound that the popular diabetes drug metformin was able to promote brain repair in mice. According to the authors of the study, the drug does this by activating stem cells in the brain, which can help establish new brain cells and repair the specific areas of the brain that have been damaged.

The researchers also wanted to know if metformin could restore cognitive function. At first they didn’t notice a positive link, but when they looked deeper, they realized that the drug affected women differently than men. As the lead author on the study, Cindi Morshead, said, “When we first looked at the data, we did not see the benefit of the metformin treatment…Then we noticed that adult females tended to do better than the males.”

Apparently, estrogen—more specifically a type of estrogen called estradiol—enhances the stem cells’ ability to respond to the drug. Meanwhile, testosterone—which is often called the “male sex hormone”—seemed to inhibit the process, explaining why the male mice didn’t respond positively to the metformin treatment.

This result comes at an important time, as the scientific community reflects on the sex bias that exists in medical research. Historically, research studies were done only on men because it was thought that female sex hormones would skew results. As Morshead explains, “The thinking was that we’re going to study males because everything you need to know is found in the male brain, and then the female brain just complicates things with hormones.” But that thinking is not only “misguided and troublesome for advancing neurological health,” as Morshead puts it, but it has caused clinical trials to fail and many women to be misdiagnosed or given useless treatments.

So what’s next in the world of estrogen and brain health? The same group of scientists is working on a pilot study that will test the effects of metformin on brain repair and cognitive function in humans. They plan to increase the number of participants in the study to fully evaluate the way sex affects treatment outcomes.



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Illustration for article titled What Anxiety Does to Your Brain and What You Can Do About It

Anxiety is a perfectly normal and natural part of being a human. There are always going to be times when we’re more nervous or worried than others. But for some, anxiety is a much stronger, more fearsome force—one that never goes away. But what is anxiety exactly, and what’s going on in your mind (and your body) when anxiety strikes? How do you cope when it takes hold?

The National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) says that more than 40 million people in the US over the age of 18 suffer from some anxiety-related disorder, and those are just the people who have been diagnosed, or whose symptoms fit into a pre-described condition. Millions more go undiagnosed.

On the other hand, anxiety itself is a natural human response that serves a purpose. Our goal shouldn’t be to dismiss it entirely—just to make it a healthy, manageable part of our lives. Even if you don’t suffer from an anxiety-related disorder, you’ve likely had to deal with it and cope the best way you know how. Anxiety is part of our world, the same way stress, sadness and happiness are, but the key is understanding how to cope with it, and how to keep it from becoming unhealthy.

To help us get there, let’s talk about what exactly is going on in your brain when anxiety strikes, how it impacts us and then what we can do about it, with the help of some experts.

What anxiety is, and how it differs from stress

Put simply, anxiety is a sense of fear and apprehension that puts you on alert. Biologically, it’s meant to put us in a heightened sense of awareness so we’re prepared for potential threats. Unfortunately, when we start to feel excessive anxiety, or we live in a constant state of anxiety, we’re in trouble. Our bodies never turn off our fight or flight response, and we live with the physical and emotional effects of anxiety on a day to day basis, even when there’s no reason or cause for them.

On its face, anxiety can look like stress; but the reality isn’t so simple. Anxiety can arise as a result of stress, but stress can manifest in other ways. Stressors can make a person sad, angry, worried or anxious, while anxiety is specifically that feeling of fear, dread and apprehension we mentioned. You may never even know what’s causing your anxiety, or in some cases, it can manifest on its own, without any real “trigger” or cause. Stress is often caused by external influences, while anxiety is an internal response. That’s part of what makes anxiety intrinsically different than stress, and also what makes it so difficult to manage.

What’s actually happening in your brain when you feel anxious

You know the feeling: That tense sensation in your stomach, the heightened sense of awareness you have about everything going on around you, the slight fear or sense of dread—that’s anxiety. Before your body feels the effects however, your brain is already at work. The NIMH guide to anxiety disorders also offers this description of the neurological processes at work:

Several parts of the brain are key actors in the production of fear and anxiety. Using brain imaging technology and neurochemical techniques, scientists have discovered that the amygdala and the hippocampus play significant roles in most anxiety disorders.

The amygdala is an almond-shaped structure deep in the brain that is believed to be a communications hub between the parts of the brain that process incoming sensory signals and the parts that interpret these signals. It can alert the rest of the brain that a threat is present and trigger a fear or anxiety response. The emotional memories stored in the central part of the amygdala may play a role in anxiety disorders involving very distinct fears, such as fears of dogs, spiders, or flying.

The hippocampus is the part of the brain that encodes threatening events into memories. Studies have shown that the hippocampus appears to be smaller in some people who were victims of child abuse or who served in military combat. Research will determine what causes this reduction in size and what role it plays in the flashbacks, deficits in explicit memory, and fragmented memories of the traumatic event that are common in PTSD.

The feeling of anxiety is part of your body’s stress response. Your fight or flight response is triggered, and your system is flooded with norephinephrine and cortisol. Both are designed to give you a boost to perception, reflexes and speed in dangerous situations. They increase your heart rate, get more blood to your muscles, get more air into your lungs, and in general get you ready to deal with whatever threat is present. Your body turns its full attention to survival. Ideally, it all shuts down when the threat passes and your body goes back to normal.

Where anxiety comes from and where it all goes wrong

The effects of stress are well understood, but where does anxiety come from? How do we know that it’s time to be “anxious,” and where is the line between “feeling anxious” and “suffering from anxiety?” We sat down with clinical psychologist Jeffrey DeGroat, Ph.D., as well as Roger S. Gil, MAMFT, to find that line.

According to Dr. DeGroat, there are a number of psychological theories as to why anxiety exists. There’s the neurological (which we mentioned above), and the psychoanalytical, which describes anxiety as battle between the id, ego and superego. In this battle, he explains, “anxiety serves as a danger signal to an individual’s ego and/or superego that an individual is at an elevated risk to act upon an unacceptable id impulse. In the face of this anxiety, an individual’s ego and/or superego respond by attempting to manage an individual’s id impulses through elevated means.”

Essentially, anxiety is a warning sign that you’re about to do something you may not want to. There’s also the cognitive theory, which suggests that anxiety arises when a person’s cognitive distortions, or irrational thought patterns, make them see everything as a physical threat, whether it’s an actual physical danger, an annoying coworker, or a police officer on the side of the road. In behavioral theory, anxiety is a learned response due to exposure to frightening or stressful situations.

Regardless of which theory you subscribe to, it’s unhealthy when those instincts are turned on constantly. Your body’s stress response is something designed to be engaged when needed and then disengaged. But constant anxiety keeps us alert and on edge all the time. Persistent anxiety is a problem.

Gil explains that whether it’s caused by genetics or being brought up in an environment conducive to anxiety (as in, loud environments or parents and teachers who yell all the time), the problem emerges when your body and brain become “wired” to be on the lookout for potential threats that could come from any direction at any time, real or imagined. Anything that could cause an undesirable emotion, he says, whether it’s fear, frustration or doubt, could be a trigger for anxiety—and once you develop thinking patterns that reinforce every event in your life as a threat, it becomes a never-ending cycle.

Both experts agree that it’s an issue when you recognize that your anxiety doesn’t seem to go away, and you’re living with it on a daily basis. But this is easier for some people than others—if you’ve been suffering from anxiety for so long that it’s just part of your personal norm, you may not even recognize that it’s an issue, as Gil explains:

“Many people have lived in an anxious state for so long that they don’t know any other feeling, so they are unaware that they are suffering from persistent anxiety. Recognizing anxiety isn’t easy in these types of situations; however, identifying its red flags is a good way to start. Are you pessimistic about the most innocuous situations to the point where it keeps you from taking risks? Do you find your mind racing to what possible negative outcomes there could be? Do you immediately attribute some external circumstance to a positive outcome that could be seen as the result of your efforts? If your answer is ‘yes’ to these questions, then you may suffer from persistent anxiety.

For some people, anxiety is situational. It’s normal to feel nervous at the prospect of having to speak in public. It’s not normal to feel anxiety about having a mundane conversation with your barista. Situational anxiety is one of those things that we can only overcome by confronting it. Generalized anxiety is something that can only be coped with by trying to rewrite the pattern of thinking that elicits it.”

Regardless of whether you’re living with anxiety or suffering from an anxiety-related condition, there are ways to deal with and lessen anxiety’s impact. It starts with recognizing the effects of anxiety, then learning the right ways to cope.

What you can do about anxiety

Once you’ve recognized the effects of anxiety, it’s time to do something about it. You don’t have to just try to keep your head above water. There are plenty of tricks and techniques you can use to ease yourself out of an anxious state or defuse anxiety when you feel it rising. Here are a few.

Turn to relaxation techniques: music, meditation, exercise, your personal rituals

Learning a few good relaxation techniques will serve you well. For example, simple paced breathing may sound too easy, but it’s a great way to coax the body into a more relaxed state. It’s something you can do at your desk at work, in your car and before or after an event. Breathe in for four seconds, then out for six. Count in your head, and focus on your counting and the sensation of your breathing. Repeat as long as it takes to relax a bit.

DeGroat suggests visualization as a relaxation technique (he also suggests this as a coping mechanism for stress). Imagine that you’re in the most relaxing environment that you can possibly think of, whether it’s at home in bed or on the beach in the tropics. Wherever you think you would be most relaxed, stop and mentally put yourself there. If you’re at the beach, he explains, ask yourself how warm it is, and whether there are clouds in the sky. Are you alone? Is it quiet, or can you hear the ocean? The goal here isn’t just to paint a pretty, relaxing picture in your head, but also to get your brain working on those details—the more you do, the farther away your mind will be from whatever has triggered your anxiety.

You can get a similar benefit from music, exercise or meditation. Relaxing music can take help take your mind off of your anxiety, or help you refocus after an anxious spell. Exercise is similar, but instead of just taking your mind away, it actually has a neurological benefit (as well as a physiological one). Gil explains that the endorphins released in our brains during exercise make us happier, and the feeling of accomplishment we get from regular activity can help curb anxiety.

Meditation—especially guided meditation—can also help, since the entire point is to calm the mind and dismiss the errant thoughts that lead to anxiety and stress. Meditation can help you focus on your surroundings or be mindful of the present, instead of letting the background seep to the fore.Recent Videos from LifehackerVIEW MORE >

Finally, turn to your own relaxation rituals to take the edge off of your anxiety. If you don’t have any, create some. They can do wonders for your mental and emotional health, and making sure you have positive habits and rituals you can turn to when you’re stressed or anxious will make sure bad habits don’t take root.

Track your mood to identify patterns

We’ve talked about how useful mood tracking can be, and how to get started before, but Gil explains that it’s helpful for more than just clearing your mind and getting thoughts off your chest. It can also help you identify patterns and the underlying causes of your anxiety:

Once a person is aware of an anxious thinking pattern, they can begin to work on interventions to manage their anxiety. One of the first things I have clients do is to keep a ‘thought journal’ of thoughts that trigger their anxiety (i.e. their body’s limbic response to a potential threat). Many times we find that there is a pattern to these thoughts. Anything from the time of day to particular individuals can be a trigger. Once a pattern is identified, then the person can be proactive and make plans for when these triggers are on the horizon.

Does your boss calling you into her office make her nervous? Then recognize this and begin to challenge the thoughts that are making you anxious. For example, tell yourself that you have completed all of your obligations and have done nothing wrong (assuming it’s true, that is). Challenge the anxiety-provoking thoughts by telling yourself that you have not done anything that would warrant a negative conversation (again, assuming that’s true).

Then come up with a “positive outcome thought” by telling yourself that your boss could be calling you in to praise you. While this exercise may not eliminate the anxiety, it will probably help with preventing you from becoming a nervous wreck. In other words, the negative thought train should slow down and not end up taking you to Panic-ville.

For example, if you suffer from social anxiety or awkwardness, keeping a thought journal like this can help you identify the types of situations that trigger your anxiety. If you can paint a clear picture, it’s easier to find methods to deal with respond to those scenarios positively.

Talk to a professional

Talking to a mental health professional (not a general practitioner) about your anxiety is an important step to learning how to cope. Many of us deal with anxiety on a regular basis and just blow it off because we don’t want to be perceived as “neurotic,” but the truth is that more people suffer from anxiety disorders—or at least persistent anxiety—than you may realize. If you’re having trouble dealing with it on your own, see a mental health specialist to talk things out. If you’re worried that mental health services cost too much money or may not be covered by your insurance, don’t worry, you still have options.

Gil also suggests that you not rule out medication for anxiety. Many people can see a serious benefit from anti-anxiety medication, but he suggests only opting for it in conjunction with talk therapy:

“If a person suffers from persistent underlying anxiety and they find that they cannot deal with it on their own, seeing a psychiatrist can be helpful because there are medications that can help their minds stabilize their moods. Coupled with talk therapy (often with a properly-trained therapist), medication is very effective at managing anxiety.

Eventually, many people are able to overcome the negative core beliefs that trigger their anxiety and may be able to stop taking medication altogether. I often tell people to do the medication and therapy thing (not just the medication thing) because the therapy could help them develop behavioral interventions to manage and/or prevent anxiety. Relying solely on medication is like taking insulin for diabetes… it’ll manage your symptoms but it won’t make you any better.”

Ultimately, that’s an individual decision to be made between you and a mental health professional that you trust, but regardless, if you find that you’re having difficulty coping with anxiety, see a professional who can help.

Don’t try to suppress anxiety: learn to cope instead

Finally, it’s important to remember that anxiety is a natural human response. If you’re struggling with it, your goal shouldn’t be to just make it go away, that’s unrealistic. You can’t just will anxiety away—if you could, no one would have to deal with it. Gil explains why this is important:

As for suppressing anxiety, that’s like expecting your body to not get hungry after not eating for a few days. Anxiety is a normal and necessary emotion that is there to protect us. The key is to identify “unnecessary anxiety”. Unnecessary anxiety can be managed with preventative measure (i.e. exercise and meditation) and by challenging the veracity of the anxiety-provoking thoughts (like CBT does).

According to Gil, your goal instead should be to learn to cope with it and minimize it, and develop the mechanisms to handle it, get your mind off of the things that make you anxious, and go on with your life. Some of the tips we’ve mentioned will hopefully help. If you see a friend or a loved one who’s suffering from anxiety, Dr. Degroat offers these tips:

Talk with them, let them know you’ve noticed they seem to be stressed recently and you’re available to talk if they want. People who are experiencing anxiety may avoid socializing because of their overwhelming worries, leading to feelings of loneliness. If you have a friend who is withdrawing, check in with them often, inviting them to get together frequently. While they may often turn you down, just knowing that they are invited can help them feel more connected. If your friend’s anxiety appears to be significantly interfering in his or her life (failing school, no longer socializing, talking about taking their lives), I would immediately contact a crisis hotline, mental health professional and/or family members of your friend.

Of course, entire books have been written on the topic of anxiety and anxiety disorders and we could go on describing their causes and potential treatments. Hopefully some of these suggestions can help you deal with anxiety, or identify it in your friends or loved ones so they can get the help they need to cope.

Many people who live with anxiety disorders or just deal with anxiety from time-to-time are highly functional, so don’t think that anxiety is something you can necessarily see on someone’s face. It can also often be coupled with depression or other conditions. With the right attention, learning to cope with and minimize unnecessary anxiety is something we can all do.


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At a specialist’s office, Katie Wood, 37, explained she felt very unwell and believed it was related to a tick bite months earlier. “He looked me up and down and replied, ‘You don’t look unwell,'” she recalls.

November 2, 2016, was a beautiful fall day in New England, and it was the perfect opportunity to take my 5-year-old son and his friend on a nature walk in the woods surrounding our yard in Massachusetts. The walk was short-lived. My son’s friend stumbled over a tree root, which prompted us to turn back to our home. But our time outside was long enough to pose an unexpected risk.

The following evening, my husband found a tick attached to my back. He removed the tick as carefully as possible and applied antibiotic ointment. What I knew then about Lyme disease told me that I would develop a bulls-eye rash or flu-like symptoms if the tick actually transmitted the illness to me. Neither of these signs appeared, so I assumed I was fine. That flawed assumption drastically changed my life.

RELATED: Is Lyme Disease Curable?

Assaulted by symptoms

Seven weeks later after the new year, I started noticing frightening changes in my health. In a work meeting one day (I’m a kitchen and bath designer), I was suddenly overcome by shortness of breath and crushing chest pain. I visited my primary care physician. After a normal EKG and chest X-ray, I was diagnosed with heartburn and given a prescription for heartburn meds. I had endured heartburn with my two pregnancies, and it felt nothing like this. The drugs provided no relief, yet all of my bloodwork was normal, so my doctor then deemed it a virus that would soon pass. It did not.

A few days later, while remembering the tick from November, my mother recommended that I ask for a Lyme disease test. My blood was drawn, and two days later, it came back negative. I had no reason to doubt my doctor or the test results. With Lyme ruled out, I moved on to determine what was happening to my body.

Searching for a diagnosis

The next few months brought an onslaught of additional symptoms and medical appointments with various specialists. First, a rheumatologist told me that the chest pain I was experiencing was costochondritis, or inflammation of the cartilage of the rib cage.

A spine specialist did X-rays and MRIs of my spine, as my neck had become increasingly stiff with very limited mobility, along with nonstop cracking and popping. A neurologist concluded that I had carpal tunnel syndrome, which would explain the onset of increasing numbness and tingling in my hands. But why was I having these issues I when hadn’t done any of the repetitive wrist motions known to cause carpal tunnel inflammation?

Because I continued to struggle with shortness of breath, a pulmonologist assessed my lungs. Those tests came back normal. Once again, I was told that most likely costochondritis was the cause of my breathing issues. How desperately I wanted all of these pains to go away, yet the diagnoses seemed almost like guesses, and the symptoms were not fading.

Managing all of these random symptoms was incredibly frustrating. Each visit with my PCP about a new symptom got me nowhere. At one point, she even told me I should try meditation. I was shocked! I had been her patient for over a decade and was perfectly healthy the entire time save for a bout of mastitis while breastfeeding. Now I had all of these symptoms and she was suggesting that they were psychosomatic. I was beginning to feel hopeless. How could I have gone from being 100% healthy to having all of these issues?

By the time May rolled around, I was navigating all of the existing symptoms and dealing with a new one: TMJ. My jaw throbbed nonstop. I was given a referral for physical therapy, and after an extensive initial intake by a highly regarded PT, his feedback was startling. The stiffness of my neck, coupled with my lack of strength and overall pain level, led him to say, “In all my years of experience, for me to see someone in your condition, you were either in a head-on collision, or bitten by a tick.”

I explained that I had been bitten by a tick, but that my tests were negative. He encouraged me to ask for additional testing.

Could it be Lyme?

As soon as I left his office, I began researching Lyme tests, specifically their accuracy—or lack thereof. Moreover, I read many articles stating that a Lyme diagnosis should be a clinical one, certainly not based solely upon a blood test. 

I returned to my primary care doctor, requesting to see her in-office infectious disease specialist. My husband came with me to the appointment, also desperate to find an answer. When the specialist entered the room, I explained that I had been very unwell and believed it was related to a tick bite. He looked me up and down and replied, “You don’t look unwell.” My husband and I were both shocked but pushed for another Lyme test. Once again it was negative.

In June, six months after the start of my symptoms, things went from bad to worse. The entire right side of my face went numb. It felt like I had gotten a Novocain injection. If I touched the skin, it felt strange. I also began having random episodes of leg numbness, which was causing me to stumble. This happened while at Target with both my sons one day. I sat down in the middle of the aisle until I could stand, then clung to the shopping cart so that I could get the kids to the checkout and back to the car. This was a turning point for me. An accurate and meaningful diagnosis was now imperative.

Closing in on a correct diagnosis

My mother insisted that I see the chief of infectious disease in a prominent Boston hospital. On July 13, 2017, roughly seven months after this all started, we met with him, and he agreed that something unexpected was wrong. He felt that it could even be the start of multiple sclerosis or another autoimmune disease. He said he wanted to draw blood and run as many tests as he could think of for many different infections, autoimmune markers, and signs of inflammation.

He also said he was going to run a different type of Lyme test, called a Lyme C6 Peptide, one his experience dictated was more reliable than the ones I’d had already.

A week later, he called with the results: Everything was negative or normal, except the Lyme test, it was positive. I was thrilled at first, as he said a three-week course of the antibiotic doxycycline would cure me. He called in the prescription and I started it the next day.

I had no idea what to expect from treatment. I soon learned that with tick-borne infections, your symptoms become much worse during treatment: When you take antibiotics, an enormous number of infectious organisms die off, which causes an inflammatory response in your body. At the end of the course of doxy, my pain was much worse than it had been, and my facial numbness had turned into full-blown trigeminal neuralgia (chronic, searing pain due to inflammation of a cranial nerve). I couldn’t chew food or even speak comfortably because my facial and dental nerves were so inflamed. Then, all of my body pain worsened.

I went back to the infectious disease doctor in Boston at the end of the doxycycline course and reported my state to him. He offered me painkillers. He said I was cured and that all this arose from damage done by the infection, and that with time, it might improve. I was shocked. There was no way I could live this way. He insisted there was nothing else he could do for me. I was sicker than before and now in a desperate state.

With further reading and research, I learned about the huge controversy surrounding Lyme disease, and whether it exists in a chronic state. The CDC believes short-term antibiotic therapy is sufficient for treating Lyme, regardless of the amount of time a person went untreated. Alternatively, ILADS, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, advocates for long-term treatment of tick-borne diseases—recognizing that persistent symptoms after a short course of antibiotics are not a sign of permanent damage, but ongoing infection.

Effective treatment for Lyme

This was all so confusing, and I wasn’t sure what to do or who could help me. My children and family were growing increasingly alarmed, as I could no longer hide the extent of my illness. The trigeminal neuralgia made eating impossible, and I soon lost 20 pounds on my already thin frame.

I found a local doctor who knew a lot about Lyme. She insisted we should do further testing and sent my blood to the Igenex lab in California, and to Armin Labs in Germany, both highly regarded for their accuracy in Lyme testing. All of my results were positive for Lyme. In October, my mother’s hairdresser connected us with one of her clients who had told of a similar Lyme experience. She said she had seen a Lyme-literate doctor, and with long-term, correctly targeted antibiotic therapy, she was now in remission and symptom-free.

In November, we met with that physician, Jeanne Hubbuch, MD. She went through all of my test results with me for an hour and a half and then looked at me and said “You’re fixable.” She explained that the treatment process takes time, often years, and focuses on killing off the infectious organisms while also supporting the body on its path to healing.

Dr. Hubbuch immediately started me on daily injections of antibiotics as well as oral antibiotics. Once again, the introduction of each antimicrobial made symptoms grow worse, but then each symptom slowly started to fade away. I am now 18 months into treatment and have made significant gains. My trigeminal neuralgia is completely gone, as are some other symptoms.

How to protect yourself

Ticks are nature’s dirty needles—carrying countless different bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Getting a bulls-eye rash is like winning the lottery; many people do not develop it, and worse, some do not even notice the tick bite. This makes diagnosis even more complicated. Dr. Hubbuch recommends removing an attached tick and sending it for tick testing to determine which pathogens it is carrying. That way, you know what to treat should symptoms appear.

I had no idea that Lyme symptoms can be so varied and diverse. It is for this reason that Lyme is known as the “great imitator,” mimicking symptoms of diseases such as fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and lupus, to name a few.

If you or someone you know has seemingly unrelated symptoms affecting a wide range of bodily processes, ask for a Lyme test, bearing in mind that a negative test does not mean you do not have Lyme. “This is when you need to see someone very well trained in differentiating what could be tick-borne illness from the myriad other things that can cause similar symptoms,” explains Dr. Hubbuch.

Moving forward

Lyme disease is often considered to be an invisible illness, but to myself and those close to me, this disease has been heartbreakingly tangible. Untreated Lyme has stolen two and a half years from me so far. My goal is to reach remission and live a symptom-free life. I now find comfort in taking the proper precautions to protect myself and my family. I’ll still roll in the grass with my kids and go for nature walks, but beforehand, we’ll apply bug spray, and afterward we’ll do head-to-toe tick checks. With tick-borne disease, prevention truly is the cure.


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