It’s that time of year, finally! Sunny days and warmer weather filled with time spent outdoors. Beach days, camping, hiking, and weekends up north! But we aren’t the only ones enjoying sweet summertime, ticks are out even more than we are. These pesky parasites love nothing more than making their next meal out of us with potentially disastrous outcomes. Deer ticks, predominately, but other ticks as well, can carry Lyme Disease and other infections. And if we are bitten by one of these infected ticks it can make us very sick!
There are still many unknowns when it comes to Lyme Disease and other tickborne infections. Some sources say a tick needs to be attached for close to 24 hours to transmit an infection, while others have been reported in as little as 6 hours. And many people who contract a tickborne illness say they have no recollection of a tick bite. A bullseye rash is not always associated with an infected tick bite either and many people can miss that they were ever bitten at all until disease symptoms develop. Symptoms of a tickborne infection are also frequently mistaken for other infections as well. I know, I know this is all a bit overwhelming and confusing. Lets dive in further, first, prevention is the BEST medicine!
TICK BITE PREVENTION
There are a variety of way to help prevent a tick bite in the first place.
Enjoy the outdoors – away from where ticks hang out: Ticks enjoy tall grassy areas where they can easily jump onto you. Stick to well-cleared paths and areas if you can.
Dress appropriately: Ticks are sneaky little crawlers. Wearing long pants and sleeves while out, especially in grassy and wooded areas, can help keep ticks from being able to attach.
Check, check, and check again: After time spent in the great outdoors check your clothes, body and any gear for ticks. Showering off can be helpful, too. Frequently check pets.
Use tick repellents: Traditional repellents such as DEET and permethrin can be used, but do come with their own risks and do burden us with a toxic load. We recommend safer tick repellents that don’t sacrifice effectiveness. Essential oils have been found to be effective tick repellents. These include lemon eucalyptus, tansy, clove, lavender, rose geranium, citronella, cedar, peppermint, rosemary, and lemongrass. These are often combined into sprays. If you are the DIY type you can also make your own spray or topicals. At Tree of Life we carry a line of safe bug and tick repellents.
WHAT DO I DO IF I GET BIT
First things first…STAY CALM! Gather the necessary supplies and safely remove the tick.
How to Properly Remove a Tick
Gather supplies: Small plastic baggie, tweezers or tick key type device.
Properly remove: With a tweezers, grasp as close to the skin as possible- do NOT apply too much pressure as to crush the tick. Steadily, pull the tick away from the skin until it releases. DO NOT squeeze, twist, or jerk the tick as you remove it. Do NOT apply essential oils, Vaseline, rubbing alcohol or anything else to try and get the tick off. This can cause the attached tick to expel its bodily contents into the bite wound and increase risk of infection.
Inspect area: Ensure all tick parts including the head are removed. If you were not able to remove the head it is advised to seek care with your physician or urgent care for proper care.
Save tick: place the tick in a plastic bag. Wash and disinfect the area and keep and eye on the bite site for any sign of rash or infection.
I’VE REMOVED THE TICK – NOW WHAT?
There are several options to consider post tick bite.
Tick Testing: To know for sure if a tick was infected with Lyme Disease or another infection you can send them off for testing. Consider testing through a lab like https://www.tickreport.com/ or https://www.tickcheck.com/. This can help determine your next steps.
Prophylactic Antibiotics?: Do you need to take antibiotics after you discover a tick bite? This depends greatly on the situation and should be discussed with your practitioner. If a tick was attached for an unknown or very long time, you develop a rash or other symptoms post-bite, or a tested tick comes back positive from the lab antibiotics may be considered. Antibiotics come with their own risks and side effects and should be carefully considered before use.
Find a Lyme literate practitioner: Lyme disease and its co-infections can be very complicated to treat and not all doctors know all the best or most current information. There are a variety of practitioners that focus their practice on treating Lyme. Find a practitioner here https://www.globallymealliance.org/lyme-patient-support/find-medical-professional/.
Keep and eye out: Most tick bites will not result in Lyme disease, but know what signs to watch out for.
Signs and symptoms to watch out for:
- expanding bullseye rash
- Flu-like symptoms
- stiff neck, muscle and joint pain
- extreme fatigue, poor memory, lack of concentration
- swollen lymph nodes
- pain and numbness in arms and legs
If you being to develop these symptoms please seek medical care.
Holistic Protocols & Prophylactics:
You can choose to treat tick bites with holistic remedies. This can be done in conjunction with conventional treatment, as an alternative to conventional treatment, or while you are awaiting results from getting your tick tested. These are also helpful options if you don’t suspect the tick was attached for long, but want some form of prophylactic besides antibiotics. These are general recommendations and consulting with a practitioner is advised.
Bentonite clay: you can use bentonite clay to make a paste and apply to bite spot to help draw out anything.
Homeopathic remedies: Ledum may be used for a tick that has just attached, but not embedded. If embedded or attached for an unknown or long amount of time consult your practitioner. Ledum dosing can vary a bit, but in general, take Ledum every three hours the first day a tick bite is discovered. Then take twice daily for the next week. This protocol is a great option for kids as homeopathic remedies are easy to take!
Herbal remedies: Natural antibacterial supplements that have been used include:
- Colloidal silver
- Juniper berries
- Oregon grape
Immune support: adding in immune supporting vitamins and supplements can help support your body’s natural defenses. Things like Vitamin C, Elderberry, Vitamin D, Vitamin A, and zinc.
Ticks can be nasty little buggers, but being well prepared can help you enjoy the outdoors without worry. Dress properly when outdoors and try to avoid tick hotspots. Know how to remove a tick properly to reduce your risk of infection and keep a stock of go-to remedies to be prepared BEFORE a tick bite happens. Doing these things will help you be confident and prepared. As always, do not hesitate to consult your primary practitioner with any concerns!