Ticks carrying the Lyme disease bacteria (Borrelia Burgdorferi) have been found in all 50 states, so don’t be fooled into thinking its only something that folks in the northeast have to be concerned with.
But as much as I detest ticks, I really don’t want you to limit or stop your healing practice of connecting to Mother Earth outside daily because of a fear of ticks.
To me, this healing practice of grounding is as crucial as eating or hydrating or breathing or wearing a seatbelt to stay healthy for an entire lifetime.
The earth has food, air, water, and conductive support all waiting to restore you back to full health. To read more about how the earth supports the conductive health of your body, you definitely want to read my book The Earth Prescription.
Meanwhile, instead of staying indoors, let’s dive into all of the things you can do proactively each time you go outside to prevent lyme disease.
Quite simply, preventing a tick bite in the first place is the single most important thing you can do to avoid Lyme disease. This is an area where you can really empower yourself to be completely aware and diligent so that you never ever need to fear being outside or let fear of ticks keep you from enjoying Mother Nature.
11 Ways To Prevent & Treat A Tick Bite:
The easiest thing you can do is to keep your yard and outdoor living space trimmed, mowed low (don’t let grass grow long, ticks love long grass) and remove piles of leaves and other debris — this will automatically reduce your chances of having ticks in your yard.
Add a few free roaming chickens to your yard space and you will have a tick monitoring and disposal system that is practically self running!
Chickens eat ticks and constantly scavenge for ticks and other pests that are harmful to humans… and you get to enjoy some delicious organic free range eggs to boost!
Add a fence:
Likewise, it’s important to ensure pets don’t bring ticks into your yard and home (which are one of the most common ways that humans get tick bites!) The best thing to do is ensure pets that live in the home with you do not roam in wooded areas.
Installing a fence or keeping pets confined only to yard areas that are mowed short is one of the single most important things you can do to decrease human exposure to Lyme.
Daily brushing and inspecting the pet for ticks after time spent outside (before bringing your pets in to the home!) will help prevent ticks from catching a ride into your living space.
Keeping pets out of bedrooms and off of furniture during tick season (late spring, all summer & early fall) will decrease the chance that you or your family members will get a tick bite after a tick has dropped off a pet.
Talk to your veterinarian for more strategies on keeping ticks off of your family pet.
Use Cedar Oil as a natural tick deterrent:
Topically it’s so easy to holistically and naturally repel ticks… no toxic chemical required.
Simply spray exposed skin with cedar oil… cedar oil is safe, all natural and no nasty DEET or other toxic chemicals that cause neuronal cell death. Repels ticks as well as flying insects.
Spray directly on skin, pets, around doorways and porches and windows — safe to use directly on the skin.
This is my favorite tick deterrent spray and I love it so much and use it so often my daughter calls this cedar oil spray “the smell of my childhood.” I love that!
Even with doing the first 5 tips, you still need to physically double check your body for ticks every time you are outside.
Throughout the day and prior to bathing, double check your body, groin, armpits, scalp, hair and clothing for ticks.
Going directly into a shower after spending time outside is the best way to make sure ticks don’t drop off into your home or stay attached to you long enough to transmit Lyme.
If you can detect a tick before it anchors on, you’ve just prevented transmission entirely. It’s worth it. I recommend you strip off clothing and place directly into the wash after working outside, then hop in a shower to wash up.
Tuck in, pony up:
Wear long sleeves and pants whenever possible to help keep ticks from reaching your skin… tucking in your shirt at the waist and if possible tucking pants legs into your socks.
Put long hair into a ponytail, bun, or even better: tucking it all up under a hat is a very easy way to cut your risk of tick bites dramatically because ticks love to grab onto long hair when walking through long grasses and wooded areas.
Use A Dryer:
Simply running your clothes, bedding, towels, garden gloves, hiking boots, etc… through your dryer will kill any ticks you don’t see. All it takes is one hour tumbling on high heat (or 90 min on low heat) and even fabrics or shoes that you can’t wash or get wet can still have all the ticks removed and killed just by a spin through your dryer.
And if you are on a vacation, especially vacations with hiking or lots of time spent outdoors or to wooded areas, try to stay in hotels or cabins with dryers… simply strip down and run your clothing and shoes through the dryer every time you return from exploring outside and you slash your risk of Lyme disease greatly.
Let your clothes take a tumble while you do a tick check and grab a shower and you have gone a long way to preventing Lyme disease entirely!
If prevention fails and you do have a tick bite from an infected tick, getting treated for Lyme disease immediately is the best thing you can do to prevent long term sequelae from becoming an issue.
But what if you are bitten by a tick?
It’s okay! Just follow these 3 steps to decrease your chance of contracting Lyme:
9. Remove the tick:
Simply gently and firmly remove the tick by the head with tweezers — as close to the skin as possible (not squeezing the body of the tick, which may help enable the bacteria to squirt into your bloodstream!) and most importantly: save the tick!
10. Test the tick, so you know if it carried Lyme or not:
This can give you instant peace of mind! It is infinitely easier to get a tick tested than wait and see if you become infected with Lyme.
First of all, human Lyme tests can be inaccurate and delay prompt treatment. Second, the myriad of symptoms for Lyme disease is a great mimicker for hundreds of other illnesses and there is no one reliable way to diagnose Lyme through symptoms. And lastly, Lyme treatments become much less effective as time goes on. So submitting a tick for testing (just place it in a plastic ziplock bag with a moist paper towel) and giving it to your local physician or sending it off to be tested yourself by Ticknology is the best way to know if you need Lyme prevention treatment or not.
This is a service that allows you to send a tick directly to a lab and have results emailed back to you within three days — awesome for getting quick answers without any delay for treatment and doesn’t even need to involve a visit to your family doctor.
Although you may prefer to go directly to your family physician, who can give you an antibiotic to have on hand to take immediately if the results do come back positive for Lyme, having direct access to tick testing services puts you in control of your own healthcare, which I am all for.
It’s important to note that less than half of folks who contract Lyme disease actually have the classic bulls eye rash reaction at the bite site. Of course if you see a bullseye rash, report this immediately to your physician. But other symptoms of Lyme are more insidious and actually more common… symptoms like: fever, joint pain or swelling, muscle pain and weakness, irritability, headache, mood changes, increased susceptibility to other infections (as your immune system compromises over time) and most common: fatigue.
So testing a tick and getting immediate antibiotic treatment for Lyme is the best thing you can do to prevent chasing vague symptoms like fatigue and headache for years to come.
11. Boost Your Immune System:
What can you do while you wait for tick test results?
Starting some immune boosting supplements is always a good idea after a tick bite while you are waiting for tick test results.
Go ahead and boost your immunity with supplements right after any suspected exposure and you will have given yourself a head start in treating Lyme before it’s even had time to express symptoms. You may want to have these items on hand to take the minute you discover a tick bite:
Other biting insects
What about annoying mosquitos and other insects that irritate us — and bite us — all summer long? When I head outside I use a two pronged approach:
1. Apply All Natural Cedar Oil To Skin:
As recommended above, not only is cedar oil a great tick deterrent but it’s fabulous for all flying and biting insects! Safe to spray directly on skin, pets, around doorways and porches and windows, and anywhere inside or outside of your home that bugs tend to congregate. Child and pet friendly. I advise my patients to use cedar oil on all exposed skin surfaces whenever going outdoors to get grounded.
2. Burn Sage Or Incense Outside:
I like to light a few incense sticks or a sage stick and keep it burning on my outdoor patio area while I eat dinner outside to deter flying insects from buzzing around my food and spoiling the meal!
Or, as I suggest in this incredibly old blog post I wrote almost 15 years ago for you — throw a smudge stick of dried sage into your summer bonfire to help keep the mosquitoes away all night!
Treating A Bite:
What to do if you are bitten by a mosquito or ant or any other bug, and to treat other scrapes and scratches you might get this summer?
You might already know I love honey to ease seasonal allergy symptoms… if you haven’t read my article on that, you can read my blog post on defeating spring allergies holistically right here.
But in addition to treating spring allergies, I love honey for wound healing as well!
Summer is filled with little cuts and scrapes and bites. So it’s the perfect time to recognize the power of honey. Findings published in 2012 in the International Wound Journal show that when raw honey was used on all types of wounds, it:
- promoted healing
- minimized necrosis
- minimized the amount of skin that sloughed off the wound
- reduced wound size
- decreased affected area around wound
Not only did it help speed wound healing, but it made a measurable improvement in over 84% of wounds!!!! We are talking:
- post operative wounds
- general skin wounds
- pressure sores and more!
Honey has well-known antimicrobial benefits, doesn’t spoil, is easy to have on hand and is portable (no refrigeration required!) so it really makes perfect sense to use as a secondary wound dressing in children older than 12 months old. To use honey for wound healing:
- First be sure to flush out any wound with lots of water… for a long period of time… 2 minutes ideally.
- Then, depending on wound type you may consider a topical antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, or antibacterial dressing, and then honey.
- For minor wounds, use this approach of deep cleansing and then raw honey as a dressing, but be sure to have any deeper or larger wounds evaluated by a physician.
Because honey is so safe and so effective for so many different types of wounds… and because it speeds healing and decreases the amount of skin that is affected by the wound, I feel that honey ultimately will be shown to reduce the appearance of scarring as well.
So for post operative wounds or acne infections or stretch marks or injuries that you want to minimize scarring in… bring on the raw honey! Sweet news, indeed!
Now that you are armed with a ton of very effective holistic tips on avoiding tick bites and decreasing your chance of developing Lyme disease (plus a few tips to help speed recovery if you do get a bite!)… it’s time to wish you a very very happy spring and summer full of grounding!!!
Keep going outside and enjoy the beautiful display that Mother Earth brings us each spring without fear!
Laura Koniver MD