With tomorrow being the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, we're starting to plan our beach days, camping vacations, and outdoor sporting events.
Unfortunately, this also means we can plan to expect ticks.
A little info about ticks:
More closely related to spiders than insects, ticks are nasty little buggers. Ticks carry all sorts of micro-organisms that can lead to Tick Borne Diseases (TBD). The most well known of these micro-organisms is a cork-screw shaped bacteria, known as Borrelia burgdorferi, which is the causative agent in Lyme Disease. Take it from someone who has spent 3/4 of her life dealing with the effects of a single tick bite: you do not want to get bit!
Fortunately, there are simple steps we can take to prevent tick bites, and some tips to follow just in case it happens.
The first important thing to understand is that ticks are very sneaky. They stand on the edge of plants and trees with their legs reaching outwards, waiting for something to grab on to. Once they've found a host, they make their way to the warmest parts of the body; the groin area, the armpits, and the scalp. Then they latch on, for up to 24 hours, sucking blood while transferring any number of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Most ticks are very small, some the size of a pin head, and they inject a numbing agent when they bite, which means you may not even know they are there.
Whenever you're out in nature hiking, biking, or camping, cover up when possible. Long sleeve shirts and long pants tucked into boots are the best protection. Still, always remember to check yourself and your children after spending time outdoors, especially the target areas. Also, don't forget to check your pets, as they are equally susceptible to TBD's. Ticks tend to hide out under the legs or at the base of the tail on dogs and cats.
How to prevent getting bit:
A natural tick deterrent, for human use only, is tea tree oil and water. Mix 1 part tea tree oil with 2 parts water in a spray bottle and spray on to clothes before going outside, especially shoes, socks, and pants. If you're a gardener, it's advisable to spray your gloves with this mix.
If you live in a highly tick infested area, such as the North Eastern US, or plan on spending a lot of time in nature this spring or summer, I highly recommend looking into Cistus Incanus tea. Also known as Rock Rose, Cistus has a light berry-like flavor and is known for it's anti-viral properties as well as it's ability to break down the protective coat, known as the biofilm, of the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. As an added bonus, Cistus is a strong anti-inflammatory and detoxifier. Sounds pretty good, huh? Advocates of Cistus tea claim it actually repels ticks from potential hosts! It can be used for dogs, as well as humans.
To receive the full benefits from Cistus tea, it is recommended you drink about 4 cups per day. Fill a tea ball with 2 teaspoons of loose tea and steep for 10 minutes in 1 liter (4 cups) of water. You'll be able to steep the tea ball twice. For dogs, mix one tablespoon of tea per 10 pounds of weight, once per day into their food. It will take a while for your body to build up to completely resisting the ticks, so it's best to continue other precautionary measures for a few months, and always remember to check for ticks after you're back home. Cistus tea is not cheap, but it's well worth the money to prevent the emotional and financial toll of Lyme Disease and its co-infections. You can purchase the tea from these sites in North America or Europe.
So, what do you do if you do find a tick?
The first step is to remove the tick from your body. Check out this website to learn the proper technique.
I'm generally against the use of anti-biotics, but in this case, if you are able to access antibiotics in the first 24 hours after being bit, GO GET ANTIBIOTICS! This is the best way to prevent the proliferation of bacteria that can lead to TBD's. As soon as you find a tick, call your doctor to prescribe a 14-21 day course of oral antibiotics. Many people are aware of the red "bull's eye" rash that indicates Lyme, but please, do not wait to see if this occurs. It's been suggested that the rash only occurs in 50% of infections, and can take up to 72 hours to appear. The sooner you take antibiotics, the better your chances of preventing TBD's.
If you are not able to get antibiotics into your system in the first 24 hours, find a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor in your area immediately. It's important to work with an LLMD because they have much more knowledge about this potentially debilitating disease than your typical Medical Doctor. You can find a qualified LLMD here.
Your MD won't tell you this, and your LLMD may not either, but studies and case histories have shown that taking antibiotics later than 24 hours after infection can cause the Borrelia to morph, creating antibiotic resistant bacteria. This makes Lyme MUCH more difficult to treat. It's essential to boost your immune system at this time, to allow your body to do what it does best: heal itself. Equally as important is detoxification, to get all the bad stuff out as quickly as possible. This is where you would benefit from hiring a health coach, to walk you through the process and keep you motivated.
If you're interested in learning more about Lyme and the political controversy that surrounds it, check out the documentary Under Our Skin. While the documentary has a lot of great information that needs to be heard, it is not an easy watch. Please, do not be discouraged if you or someone you know has Lyme: there are answers out there, as long as you're asking the right questions to the right people.
Now that you know how to prevent tick bites, and what to do if you do happen to get bit, go out and enjoy the all the beauty summer has to offer! :)