Lyme Disease is something that's sadly becoming a more and more prevalent topic these days. More and more cases of this horrid disease are showing up every year, with some strains of Lyme Disease even proving to be deadly, so having tips for tick prevention can be key.
What? Did I really say "deadly"?
Yeah, how's that to make you sit up and pay attention, right? I mean, hearing about regular Lyme Disease is bad enough, but deadly? Sigh.
It's enough to make me want to move to Hawaii where (so far) there have not been any cases of Lyme.
Anyhow, let's take a step back and learn about Lyme and Tick Prevention Tips so we can be better armed against this nasty enemy.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that has become a widespread epidemic in recent years. It’s known as “The Great Imitator”, because it resembles many other different diseases, yet does not respond to the treatments for those diseases. While it can seem like it's everywhere, it's not; and tick prevention is your best bet for avoiding this disease.
Lyme can really seem scary, especially when you see that there are over 300,000 new cases each year. It baffles doctors and patients alike, is notoriously difficult to diagnose, and can really cause serious damage in the people it affects. It is frightening. I understand; I’ve been fighting my own Lyme battle for the last 2 years.
The good news is; that Lyme transmission is easily preventable with the proper precautions. Though it’s possible Lyme can be transmitted through any biting insects, pregnancy, or even sexual transmission; your biggest chances of catching it is from a tick bite--so that’s where I’ll focus on tick prevention.
Is it Lyme Disease or Lyme's Disease?
Before we get on with tips about how to prevent Lyme Disease, let's make sure we're calling the disease by its proper name, shall we :)? You will likely see Lyme Disease referred to in both ways.
However, "Lyme's disease" is not the correct name.
Lyme Disease (not 'LYME's Disease') is named after Lyme, CT where the first major outbreak was, which is why it's called Lyme and not Lymes or Lyme's.
Lyme Disease Symptoms
One of the scariest parts of Lyme Disease is that it's difficult to diagnose. Lyme Disease Symptoms resemble those of many other ailments so it's important to be persistent when evaluating symptoms.
Many people think about the supposedly telltale bulls-eye rash when they think about Lyme, however, most people either don't get a rash or don't remember seeing one.
Often people with Lyme Disease don't remember getting bitten by a tick. But since some ticks are as small as a poppyseed (yes, it's true), that isn't surprising.
It's actually suspected that many people are bitten by a tick long before any Lyme Disease symptoms show up. As such, the thinking is that at some point after the tick bite, your immune system suffers an insult (excessive stress, another illness, etc.) and then the disease takes root and the Lyme Disease symptoms become obvious.
Typical Lyme Disease Symptoms:
- Bulls-eye rash (however, fewer than 50% of people remember getting a rash)
- Flu symptoms such as fatigue, fever, chills, muscle aches, and headaches
- Neck stiffness
Chronic / Late-Stage Lyme Disease Symptoms:
Lyme Disease Symptoms that show up later and are indicative of a chronic case of Lyme Disease go far deeper, and can include:
- Chronic fatigue & pain in joints and muscles
- Muscle twitching
- Chronic flu-like symptoms such as headache, fever, and neck stiffness
- Bell’s palsy
- Brain fog
- Noise & light sensitivity
- Blurry vision and floaters in eyes
- Dizziness & tinnitus
- Tremors and tingling in hands and feet
- Chest pain & heart palpitations
This is not an exhaustive list of symptoms, and it also doesn’t include common symptoms from Lyme co-infections (which are very troubling indeed).
Confused about what to make of all of this? Yes, it's very complicated.
The best thing you can do is to pay attention to how you’re feeling and make note of any changes to address with your doctor. To find a doctor that knows how to treat Lyme disease, check out ILADS.
Tick Prevention Tips
While Lyme disease is scary, here’s the thing; you shouldn't let the fear of it stop us from enjoying the outdoors. Being in nature is good for the soul and for the body. Keeping your immune system is key so that you can fight off all kinds of infections, including Lyme Disease.
Having a healthy immune system is the single biggest step we can take to being prepared for any type of health concern; and managing stress is a big part of that.
Of course, avoiding tick bites is key. Following are tips for not getting bitten by those pesky ticks in the first place.
Tick avoidance is about addressing all possible avenues for transmission which means thinking about a lot of different angles.
Stay on the trails
If you know you’re going to be out hiking, it’s always best to stay on trails. Not only will you be less likely to get hurt or lost, but the paths that are cleared out are usually wide enough to prevent ticks on weeds and grass from being able to attach onto you as you brush by.
These trails are maintained for a reason, so stay on the path to stay away from ticks!
One of the best tick prevention tips is to dress for success, and I don't mean putting on heels or professional attire.
You can prevent simply by wearing tall socks and pants when hiking in the woods. The ticks can’t bite through the material, so it helps provide a barrier between them and your skin.
But always be sure to check your clothing when you return home before taking them off and immediately get rid of any ticks that you find before putting clothes in the laundry or anywhere else.
Also, light colored clothing is best so that you can more easily spot ticks when examining your clothes.
Bug spray is your friend
If you’re not going to be on wide, maintained trails, then bug spray is a great tool for Lyme disease prevention. DEET is a chemical commonly found in bug and pest spray helps repel bugs. However, it’s also a harsh chemical, so I use this as a last resort.
One alternative to using DEET is using the gentler rose geranium essential oil, which helps to deter ticks from attaching to your skin. But, essential oils tend to absorb and evaporate quicker than chemical bug sprays do, so be sure to re-apply frequently.
Keep your pets out of bed
If you think that avoiding hiking will keep you from getting Lyme, you are incorrect. Many people who contract Lyme disease don’t get it from the woods, but instead from their pets.
Keeping your animals up to date on their tick meds, and not letting dogs sleep in bed with you is one huge way you can minimize tick bites. This is especially important because ticks can hitch rides onto your family pets, and then sneak over to you at night and attach somewhere you may not see.
Eat to Prevent Lyme Disease
Some say that what you eat can help prevent Lyme Disease. It's not that these things do anything to your body to prevent a disease, but apparently ticks just don't like them so these are basically edible tick repellents.
Apparently ticks don't like garlic. Not sure if that's really true or not but it's a delicious repellent at worst!
You could take garlic pills (those are odorless and you'll thank me for that!) or add extra garlic to just about everything you make to help ward the ticks off.
Some say that ticks don't like B vitamins at all, and some say that B1 is the vitamin that they don't like. There are lots of testimonials online about how effective people have found B vitamins to be as a way to prevent ticks from biting you. Here is one of them. This B vitamin complex is a great option for those with MTHFR issues and this is a B1 option from a trustworthy company.
Some say that drinking cistus tea makes one less appealing to ticks and mosquitos too.
Tick-proof Your Yard
- Keep foliage under control
- Mow the lawn regularly
- Considering having mulch between more woody areas and the lawn
- Stack wood in a dry area
- Build a fence to prevent stray animals from bringing ticks into your yard
- Remove any trash or debris from yard (rodents and ticks like to live there)
- Use Nematodes on your property. They attach to ticks and kill them.
Check Yourself Daily
It used to be that checking for ticks after being out in the woods was enough.
Again, panicking isn't the answer, but ticks and Lyme Disease are spreading, so being cautious is important.
Every day, especially after being outside, check your head, body, and clothing for ticks. Ticks can be as small as a poppy seed--so look carefully!
How to Remove a Tick
Even if you follow all of the tips here, you still might end up with a tick on you, so it's important to know what to do next.
First of all, DO NOT put peppermint essential oil (or anything else for that matter) on the tick to get it to detach. This startles the tick, causing it to regurgitate into your body and bloodstream, which increases the chances of Lyme & co-infections infecting you.
There is one correct way to remove a tick
- Use tweezers to remove the tick from your skin.
- Using very fine-point tweezers (or a tick removal kit), grasp the tick as close to the surface of your skin as you can and pull upward firmly, but slowly.
- Make sure the entire tick comes out and doesn’t leave any parts in your skin.
Once the tick has been successfully removed, send it in for free lab testing. This way you can hopefully find out which diseases the tick has been carrying, so you can get a head start on treating Lyme Disease or keeping an eye out for symptoms.
What to Do After a Tick Bite
If you have a tick bite, you’re at an advantage compared to those who never realize they’ve had one--you get a head start on getting medical attention (let's look at the bright side on this one--if there is a bright side of Lyme!)
Topical Treatment for Tick Bite
After a tick bite, the first thing you should do is clean the wound, and then make a paste out of andrographis tincture mixed with bentonite clay (there are many benefits of bentonite clay, but the possibility of a tick bit is only one reason this helpful substance should be in every house).
Apply the paste to the bite area and let it dry, then wash it off, re-applying every few hours for a couple of days so long as it’s not irritating your skin. Herbalist and Lyme expert Stephen Buhner recommends this as a way of drawing the toxins out of your skin before they have an opportunity to really get deep into your body.
This information is of course something to discuss with your physician to see if there is another option that would be better. This study shows that applying an antibiotic topically is not effective in preventing Borrelia burgdorferi infections following a tick bite.
This post on Lyme Disease Support has more information on what to do if you suspect Lyme.
Conclusion & Encouragement
For more information about Lyme Disease, this post on Lyme Disease facts is loaded with lots of helpful information. Some of it is scary, but it's good to be armed with the truth.
However, keep in mind that if you get bitten by a tick and get Lyme Disease, it’s ok; just figure out what’s next. Deep breaths.
Lyme is not a death sentence, and it doesn’t define you. There are many of us in that fight together, and I can assure you, there is hope.
So take hikes, go camping, breathe in the fresh air, and enjoy being in nature. Wear your pants and socks, and keep your bug spray close.
Then if you do end up with a Lyme Disease Diagnosis, partner up with others to get help on dealing with this disease, and get on with your life.
Have you tried any of these Tips to Avoid Ticks?
Stefani is a boy mom and wife on a mission to provide hope for those with autoimmune conditions and Lyme, and encouragement for raising healthy kids. She blogs over at Natural Paleo Family where she loves to cook real food meals, healthy desserts, and embrace the craziness that is life.