Prevention is key when it comes to staying safe from Ticks and Lyme Disease. Keep in mind that Ticks that transmit Lyme and Co-Infections can be as tiny as a poppy seed and can be very difficult to spot like in the photo for this blog post. Those are Nymph Ticks on someones hand. How are you ever supposed to find one of them on you and keep it from getting you sick? They jump onto you and find a safe place to feed for days and transmit whatever infections they are carrying. Some studies show ticks only need to be attached for an hour or less to transmit infection.
Some Facts About Lyme and Ticks and Why They Are So Dangerous.
1. You will not feel a Tick bite. They have a pain killer in their saliva that makes their bite totally painless, unlike other insects.
2. Ticks can be an issue year round. They can be active when temperatures are above 40F even in the winter. Spring and Summer are peak season for Ticks so be extra careful then, especially for the tiny Nymphs.
3. Ticks do not survive in hot, dry areas as it causes their bodies to dry. Ticks die if their bodies dry out.
4. Ticks do not jump or fly. They crawl up brush or grass up to about 3’ and wait for a person or animal to pass by and jump onto which is why long grass fields are so dangerous to walk through.
PREVENTING TICK BITES
1. Avoid Tick Infested Areas Now that is easier said than done, and most of the time you don’t know you are in a tick infested area. I basically think anywhere in nature is a tick infested area and potentially cities too. Did you know Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and Central Park in New York City are full of ticks? Crazy right?
Ticks love to hang out on long grass blades, edges of paths and low hanging tree branches. They wait for a human to walk by on the path and jump onto you or your pets. They can jump down from overhanging branches onto your head too and they love piles of old leaves. That almost makes them sound cute and playful, but they are not. It's important to not sit on tree stumps of fallen logs since they love to hang out there as well. It's best to avoid brushy, overgrown grassy, and wooded habitats, particularly in spring and early summer when nymphal ticks feed. It's also important to remove leaves, tall grass, and brush from areas surrounding work areas or residential areas, thereby reducing tick, deer, and rodent habitat.
2. Wear Light Colored Clothing Wear light-colored long pants and long sleeves so you can easily see any ticks that have jumped on to you. It's best to tuck your shirt into your pants and tuck your pants into your socks. I know it's not the most fashionable look, but neither is having Lyme Disease for years. Braiding your hair also helps spot them on your head. I have also heard that wearing nylons can be effective since the ticks can't grab on and embed. They slide right off the slick fabric.
3. Use Repellent DEET can be very effective on the skin. It's best to apply it below your clothes so you are protected on all your skin. Also remember to reapply through the day if you are going to be outside for extended periods of time. Ultrathon is a very effective repellent since it is a lotion and ensures you can cover every inch of your body. I am a mosquito magnet and it's very effective against them unless I miss a spot.
Permethrin is a spray you can apply to your clothes. It lasts up to 6 weeks or 6 washings. It should never ever be applied to skin as it is toxic. Only to clothing. Chemicals come with their own problems, especially if it will stay on your clothes, but if you are going to tick infested area I would do everything you can to prevent tick bites, including this. You can also use a spray Deet on your shoes and clothes for extra temporary protection if you choose not to use Permethrin.
I am not a big fan of using toxic repellents on my body and clothes unless I really have to. Some people have found more natural repellents to be effective such as Essential Oils, especially Rose Geranium. Check out this post about its effectiveness on Primally Inspired.
I find Doterra's Terrashield to also be pretty effective against mosquitoes, though I am not sure how good it is against ticks. I especially like that its all natural and not a chemical, but still very effective.
4. Do A Tick Check and Dry Your Clothes The best thing to do as soon as you return from the outdoors is to place all your clothes in the hot dryer for at least 20 minutes and jump in a hot shower. Ticks can’t survive in dry heat so if there were any on your clothes they are goners.
Doing a thorough tick check once you are home is also crucial. You should make sure to check dark and moist areas such as your groin, armpits and scalp, which are popular places for ticks to feed, but check your entire body as well. Check yourself and your bedding for at least 3 days after. Also make sure to check your pets, who can bring ticks into your home and bed. Ticks roam around your body to find a safe place to feed for days and often like to go in your hair and scalp so make sure to thoroughly check your scalp. You can also run a comb through your hair to pull any ticks out before they settle in.
Another trick is to use a sticky lint roller. Roll it on yourself or your pets to pick up any ticks that are too tiny to see. Ticks, especially nymphal ticks, are tiny and hard to spot.
5. Check Your Pets! Pets are not immune to Lyme either! Make sure you do a tick check on them so they don’t get Lyme or bring infected ticks into your home, furniture and bed!
One of the more effective Tick preventatives is Advantix II. You apply it once a month to your dogs back and it works for 30 days. It works by repelling ticks and killing them before they attach. Again I am not a fan of toxic chemicals, but I am less a fan of something happening to my fur baby so I do use this monthly. I also put a few drops of Rose Geranium Essential Oil on his back before he goes out to play at dog parks for double protection. I would never ever want my puppy to ever experience Lyme Disease.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND A TICK BITING YOU
1. Use Fine Point Tweezers Make sure you use fine point tweezers. You want to make sure to grab the tick by its head as close to the skin as possible so you don’t squirt the bacteria in its body right into your bloodstream. This is VERY VERY IMPORTANT, otherwise, you will infect yourself. Avoid squeezing the tick, breaking it, or allowing any blood to remain on your skin.
2. Pull Straight Out Once you have gotten ahold of the mouth, pull straight out with even, steady pressure. Tick mouthparts have reversed barbs on them and it causes them to not be easily removed except by pulling them straight out with tweezers. NEVER: squeeze the tick, burn it, or cover it with Vaseline or any other substance.
3. Keep The Tick and Send It To Igenix Labs You will want to keep the Tick and send it to Igenix Labs to be tested to see what infections it has so you can be treated. It's best to place the tick in a small plastic bag or vial with blades of grass, leaf, or moist (not wet) piece of tissue. Label it with the name, date, site of bite and how long it was attached before removal and send to Igenix Labs ASAP.
4. Clean The Bite Make sure to disinfect the bite area as well as the tweezers, and obviously wash your hands.
5. Consult Your Doctor Definitely contact your doctor right away and let them know about the bite. You will want to seek treatment if the tick was attached. It's best to talk to your doctor and take 4-6 weeks of antibiotics as a preventative. Some doctors will only want to give you 2 weeks, which is the CDC/IDSA recommendation. This is typically not enough. If your doctor will not give you 4-6 weeks find an LLMD (Lyme Literate Medical Doctor) and seek correct treatment. You can find LLMD’s on ILADS.
The initial appointment might be expensive ($300+) but it will save you $80k in treatment down the road as well as years of suffering. Yes, thats right. I have spent $80k out of pocket in 3 years trying to get my life back. If you get bitten by a tick and develop symptoms of early Lyme (flu-like, fever, rash etc) you have been infected. Nobodys immune system is strong enough to fight it off on its own. You may think that if the “flu” goes away that you are cured but that is NOT THE CASE.
Within a few months to a year you will develop weird symptoms and you will have no idea what is going on. You will think you are just tired, getting old or achey. You won’t even remember the tick bite and think that this is what could be causing your issues. If you are lucky to figure out its Lyme within a few years you will have to start treating with intense treatments that insurance will not cover one penny of it. This is if you are even lucky to see a doctor that will diagnose you with Lyme. There are so many misdiagnosis for Lyme such as MS, ALS, Alzheimer's, Autism, ADHD, Parkinsons, Fibromyalgia and so much more! Most primary care doctors know nothing about Lyme. Don’t let this happen to you. Don’t become a Lyme Statistic.
Treatment for Chronic Lyme takes years and the Lyme won’t ever be cured. You will have it forever. However, if you treat early you can avoid this. You most likely won’t be able to work while you are treating Chronic Lyme because you feel so sick and you will be paying for everything out of pocket. So many lives have been destroyed because of a bug bite. It's not something to mess with. If you find a tick on you, feel lucky you found it and seek proper treatment right away. Most people don’t even see the tick that made them sick.
I have met so many people in the IV rooms that said they took 2 weeks of antibiotics,or their doctors didn’t think they need antibiotics or they tested negative on the Lyme test and took only 1-10 days as a precaution and years later they are SUPER sick, sitting in the IV room with me shelling out thousands of dollars trying to get better and unable to work. Don’t do this to yourself.
Another thing you want to make sure you get checked for any co-infections which can be just as bad as Lyme! Seeing a Lyme doctor is really the best way to treat and rule out any co-infections after a tick bite. A regular primary care doctor will not treat you for these co-infections! I know these may sound like no big deal but they can make you just as sick as Lyme and are not something to mess around with. Doxy does NOT treat all co-infections so it's important to treat all possible infections. Please see a Lyme Doctor right away if you get bit and also send your tick to Igenix for testing to know exactly what infections to treat for.
A few hundred dollars after a tick bite will save you thousands of dollars later in life, not to mention years of horrible health.
You can find a Lyme doctor on ILADS.
Please take this very seriously. Trust me, you do not want to think Lyme is no big deal. It will destroy your life.