After flying under the radar for many years, Lyme disease is starting to get the attention it merits as a serious public health concern. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 360,000 cases of Lyme disease have been reported in Europe over the last two decades, with numbers increasing steadily. In the United States, where Lyme disease is the most common disease transmitted by vectors (ticks, mosquitoes and fleas), the incidence of Lyme disease has nearly doubled since 1991 – reported cases went from 3.74 per 100,000 people to 7.95 per 100,000 people in 2014. And these statistics don’t take into account the many undiagnosed or misdiagnosed cases of Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected deer tick, also known as a blacklegged tick, that carries the Lyme disease bacterium. Transmission usually occurs when the tick has been attached for at least 36 hours. With Lyme disease cases on the rise, people are starting to have a better understanding of how this disease works. Growing awareness of Lyme disease risk has also made the general public more alert to the symptoms of Lyme disease, which vary but typically feature a rash that can resemble a bullseye as well as headaches, fever and joint pain. Those who spend time outdoors in regions where Lyme disease is common have become more cautious about protecting themselves from tick bites, whether by tucking their pants into their socks or wearing clothing treated with tick-repelling chemicals. And medical professionals working in these regions are becoming much more adept at diagnosing and treating Lyme disease.
In spite of a growing awareness of Lyme disease, many mysteries still surround this illness. One of these is the curious link between Lyme disease and WiFi. What effect could WiFi possibly have on people with Lyme disease? Let’s take a closer look.
Electromagnetic pollution: a growing problem
We are constantly surrounded by devices that emit electromagnetic radiation. In addition to the electrical wires and appliances in the home, cell phones, your wireless routers and WiFi hotspots are all sources of electromagnetic radiation. Taken together, this vast amount of radiation becomes a sort of electromagnetic pollution. The fact that this pollution is invisible, unlike garbage in a landfill or smog clouding the sky, makes it that much more insidious. We may not be able to see it, but electromagnetic radiation is all around us – and it could be negatively affecting our health. Some of the many conditions associated with exposure to electromagnetic radiation are sleep disorders, depression, cognitive problems and various types of cancer.
With the ubiquitous presence of mobile phones and WiFi signals, electromagnetic pollution has reached a new level, and scientists are starting to take note of the adverse effects WiFi is having on people. One systematic review of more than 100 studies looking at exposure to WiFi radiation found it had effects on the heart, liver, thyroid, brain, reproductive system and more. Based on these findings, the researchers responsible for the review concluded that steps should be taken to minimise exposure to WiFi radiation.
Lyme disease patients: a vulnerable population
While electromagnetic pollution caused by WiFi and other sources is an issue for everybody, certain people are especially vulnerable to its effects. One of these groups includes those with Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis or another autoimmune illness that may cause damage to the myelin sheath. This protective coating wraps around the end of nerve cells, allowing them to effectively send and receive messages. Lyme disease can cause myelin loss, meaning that the nerves of Lyme patients may not work as well to communicate with the brain and the rest of the central nervous system. Because their damaged myelin may not be able to protect their nerves from exposure to electromagnetic radiation, Lyme patients could feel the negative effects of this exposure more deeply than those with healthy myelin.
How can you avoid electromagnetic pollution?
Although it’s all around us, electromagnetic pollution can be avoided. Here are a few ways to limit exposure to electromagnetic radiation:
- If you have WiFi in your home, turn it on only when you need it and keep it off at night.
- Keep your cell phone and computer out of your sleeping area if possible. Turn off and unplug any electrical devices in your bedroom at night.
- Try to place the head of your bed at least three feet from electrical outlets.
- Put your phone in airplane mode to minimise the amount of electromagnetic radiation it emits.
Electromagnetic pollution is a concern that continues to grow as we bring more ‘smart’ devices into our lives. For Lyme disease patients, awareness of the risks involved with exposure to this pollution, along with a few simple steps to minimise exposure, can offer protection from this invisible threat.