Nothing’s worse than being sick in the summer. Aches, pain, lethargy, and fatigue can suck the enjoyment out of the season quickly. And it can be quite scary if you haven’t got the slightest idea where the symptoms are coming from.
What Is Lyme Disease?
You may have heard about Lyme disease but perhaps know very little about it. It’s a condition caused by the Borrelia burgdorfei bacteria, transmitted by blacklegged tick bites. Your chances of getting it have increased drastically over the past 20 years; in fact, reported cases have tripled in the past two decades.
It mainly impacts people in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the country, but has been seen in other locations. Ticks live in wooded areas and long grass, so if you like to go out for hikes, walk through conservation areas, or live close to a wooded area, you’re at higher risk. You may become infected with Lyme disease while walking from the parking lot to the beach, taking your dog for a walk, petting your dog after it’s been outside, camping, hiking, or spending virtually any time in a wooded location or area with tall grass or dense shrubs. Therefore, you want to be protected at all times this season.
Thankfully, Lyme disease is largely preventable and there are natural means of keeping ticks at bay. If you’re anything like me, you might not be comfortable with commercially manufactured bug sprays laced with chemicals, even if they are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Try Using Natural Tick Repellents
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does recommend using insect repellent containing a minimum of 20% DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin or products with 0.5% permetrin on clothing and shoes. However, there are a few much gentler and healthier natural tick repellents that are worth trying if you want to avoid harsh chemicals. These are readily available at your local health food store or even grocery store. It should be noted that natural products are not always registered with the EPA for effectiveness, but they are noted as effective by the CDC.
This is an EPA-registered essential oil made from the leaves and stems of wild tomato plants. Apply it to your skin and clothing to help keep ticks away.
2. Garlic oil
Although you may not want to use it on your skin, garlic oil is a great way to keep ticks away from your lawn and the wooded areas on or around your property. Spray it on your lawn and garden to limit the threat of ticks.
3. Mixed essential oils
Rosemary, lemongrass, cedar, peppermint, thyme, and geraniol blends can also prevent tick bites and can be used on skin, clothing, lawns, and gardens.
Tips for Preventing Tick Bites
There are some other ways you can prevent tick bites, including:
- Avoiding long grass.
- Sticking to paths and marked trails when hiking in the woods and walking in the center of the path.
- Wearing long pants and tucking pants into socks.
- Performing daily inspections after showers (be thorough because ticks are very small—about the size of a sesame seed). If you see one, carefully remove it with tweezers. It takes roughly 48 to 72 hours for a latched tick to transmit the bacteria, so daily inspections are a must to avoid Lyme disease.
Lyme Disease Is Always Serious
If you find a tick or think you may have Lyme disease, see your doctor right away. If you’re treated with the right antibiotics in the early stages, you have an excellent chance of full recovery. Potential early symptoms of Lyme disease to look for include flu-like symptoms (fever, headache, fatigue, achy feeling, and swollen lymph nodes) and a rash at the bite location (sometimes resembling a bull’s eye). Signs that can appear later on include neck stiffness, severe headache, rashes elsewhere on the body, joint pain/swelling, muscle aches, dizziness, nerve pain, irregular heartbeat, and memory problems.
With the warm weather and the great outdoors calling your name, make sure to take the proper precautions to prevent Lyme disease…and have a great summer!
Kilpatrick A., et al., “Lyme disease ecology in a changing world: consensus, uncertainty and critical gaps for improving control,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B., April 24, 2017; DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2016.0117.
Miller, K., “Lyme Disease Cases Have Tripled in 20 Years—Here’s How to Stay Safe,” Self, May 1, 2017; http://www.self.com/story/lyme-disease-cases-tripled-20-years, last accessed May 29, 2017.
“Natural Tick Repellents and Pesticides,” CDC, March 14, 2016; https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/prev/natural-repellents.html, last accessed May 29, 2017.
“Lyme Disease,” CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/index.html, last accessed May 31, 2017.