I just get so ticked off this time of year. It’s summer time which means outdoor play, hiking... and tick bites. This week I had two friends contact me. One found a tick embedded in her son and my other friend had a bullseye rash on her leg. Tick bites are more than just an annoying spring and summer nuisance. Lyme Disease is caused by bacteria from a tick bite. In addition to this Lyme bacterial infection, ticks transfer other infections such as the malaria-like disease Babesiosis, the flu-like Anaplasmosis, the Heartland Virus infection, and many other infections.
It’s time for you to get ticked off! You can take steps to avoid the nasty critters and keep ticks off. In addition, early detection is critical. What you do once you detect a tick bite or an embedded tick can impact whether you will suffer long-term health effects. Read on to learn more.
Repelling Ticks & Other Biting Insects
Insecticides can be used to repel ticks. Permethrin, an insecticide found in antimalarial bed nets, kills ticks. You can buy permethrin-treated clothing, socks, and shoes or buy the spray and do it yourself. I like to use a natural product called Ticks-N-All. I spray it on my feet, shoes, and legs whenever I go hiking and mountain biking. I use it on my kids and it also comes in a pet friendly spray. The jury is still out whether it truly keeps the ticks away, but my family has had good results.
Perform Tick Checks
Since I don’t trust the spray to keep the ticks off 100%, we do tick checks at home. Whenever we've been outdoors in grass or the woods, we have a family member check us head to toe for ticks. It’s helpful to use a headlamp and check everywhere; behind the ears, between the toes, and the private areas too. Hop in the shower after the check for some added protection. Remember to always check the dog too!
Stay in the Sun
Tick nymphs have outer covers that lose moisture. They can’t survive in environments lower than 80% humidity for very long. That’s why you’ll find ticks in shaded, humid environments. Stay in the sun and there will more likely be fewer ticks around.
Light Clothes and Duct Tape
If you wear light colored clothes, you will be able to see the ticks more easily. Remember, when ticks are in nymph form, they are the size of a poppy seed and are really hard to see. You really can use duct tape for everything! Typically, ticks will latch onto your feet as you pass them by and then they crawl up your body until they find a nice patch of skin. If you wrap duct tape sticky side out around your ankles, the tick latches on, and as it crawls up, it gets stuck on the duct tape. I’ve heard trail runners claim they’ve caught numerous ticks this way.
Use the Dryer
Ticks can be killed by giving clothing a quick run in the dryer on high heat for about five minutes. Ticks can survive the wash, so it’s best to strip down, throw clothes in the dryer for five minutes, and then toss them in the wash.
What to Do if You Get a Tick Bite
If you or a family member finds a tick embedded, you should remove the tick immediately with a tweezers or forceps. It’s best to catch the tick off guard and remove them with one quick grab. If done slowly, there is more likelihood that the tick responds by excreting more fluids into your body. After removing the tick, place it in a ziplock bag and send it to a laboratory to get tested. It’s much easier to get the tick tested for infections than the person who has been bitten. I like using IGENEX lab for testing ticks.
Treatment for a Tick Bite
Some experts recommend waiting to see if the bitten person exhibits any symptoms before starting treatment. Because I know first hand the devastating effects of Lyme disease and associated tick borne infections, I recommend starting treatment immediately. Don’t wait for a positive test. Early in the course of infection, testing is of limited value as it takes 4-6 weeks for the body to develop antibodies. Keep these ideas in mind:
A rash does not always appear in early Lyme Disease
See a doctor immediately. Go to www.lymediseaseassociation.org for a list of Lyme literate doctors in your area. Or take a copy of the ILADS (International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society) treatment guidelines with you to your doctor.
In addition to the antibiotics your doctor may prescribe, get tested for the associated tick borne infections. Use the Igenex results from the tick test to determine which co-infections you should get tested for and get treatment for these infections from a Lyme literate doctor.