Apr 18, 2015

10 Ways to Protect Yourself from Lyme Disease

This is the time of year we expose ourselves to tick-borne diseases.  The weather is warming up, most of us are coming out of our homes and getting back into our outdoor routines.

We will once again be outside walking, hiking, making plans to picnic or even to go camping. We're not the only ones out of hiding, ticks are too and spring-time is when nymph ticks, which are the size of a dot, are most problematic. 

How can you possibly protect yourself from Lyme Disease and the many other vector-borne diseases that have become so prevalent?

Honestly, it's quite impossible to avoid being bit by a mosquito but depending on your lifestyle it could be a little easier to avoid those dreaded arachnids, the tick.

When it comes to Lyme Disease, prevention is better than a cure because there isn't a cure.  Lyme testing is extremely inaccurate and diagnosing Lyme Disease is extremely difficult because symptoms mimic so many different diseases.  Many who are bit and don't get the initial symptoms indicating an infection can end up with a lifetime of pain and suffering which may not present for months or even years down the road.

Be very careful to avoid being bitten by ticks at all costs.  Now-a-days a Lyme infection is not the only infection one needs to be wary of.  The black legged deer tick carry many infections such Babesia WA-1 Duncani, Babesia Microti, Erlichia, Bartonella, and most recently in the news the deadly Powassan Virus which has no treatment available.  Other ticks carry bacterial infections, viruses, parasites and worms as well so just because you got bit by a dog tick or another type does not mean you're exempt from an infection.

What You Can Do to Avoid Lyme Disease and Other Tick-borne Infections

1.  Boost your immune system.  Honestly, our immune system can either make or break us.  Eat and drink as healthy as you can.  Getting plenty of sunshine will increase your vitamin D levels, eat plenty of vegetables, lean grass fed meats and good healthy fats like Olive Oil, Avocado, and fresh wild caught fish.  I've heard eating garlic and onions can deter ticks and other biting insects, they might deter your friends too but at least you'll be protected.

2.  Reduce stress.  Many people can contract a vector-borne infection but because they are healthy and their immune system strong they can basically carry the infection without symptoms.  If a stressful life event occurs or the immune system is compromised the infection will come out full force and can be devastating.  It is harder to diagnose the cause because the person may not have been outdoors or may not recall the last time they were bit.

The path I walked every day.
3.  Avoid the most obvious areas where ticks would be such as tall grasses, leaf piles and wooded areas.  Walk in the center of trails. 

While some areas put you most at risk for contracting infection, quite honestly you can be at risk for tick bites in your very own yard. 

Keep your lawn neatly mowed to prevent ticks from hanging out in your grass or up near your home.  Be aware that nymph ticks start out on small animals like mice, squirrel and even birds.

Understand that birds can drop ticks as they fly by and ticks can fall from trees.  I was sitting under my tree in the front yard and a deer tick fell on my leg.  Thankfully I saw that one and it didn't have the opportunity to bite me.

4.  Dress appropriately.  Wear light colors in order to spot ticks more easily.  Wearing long pants and long sleeved shirts will protect your skin from possible tick attachment.  Wearing your socks on the outside of your pants will also ensure that ticks won't crawl up your pants leg. I know this doesn't express the greatest fashion statement but the alternative is too great to care.

5.  Use Insect Repellent.  It's recommended that you use DEET on your skin, I personally don't but you could.  I opt for essential oils.  I have used many different natural bug sprays and most recently switched to using Young Living Essential Oils.

For Mosquito protection alone Lemon Grass mixed with water or witch hazel in a dark glass bottle works very well for my family.  I recycle the small bottles from our herbal tinctures, they're small enough to keep in my purse.

Here's My Tick & Bug Spray Recipe:
Fill a 4 oz. glass amber bottle 1 tsp witch hazel, vodka, or even white vinegar
Add 10-15 drops each of Geranium, Lemongrass, Lavender, and Citronella.  Shake gently and spray where needed.  Of course you can make this in a much larger batch.  Other oils that you can include are Purification, Peppermint and Eucalyptus.  I've also seen recipes where you substitute a carrier oil such as jojoba oil or sweet almond oil for the liquid.

6. Use Permethrin on your shoes and clothing.  Never use this on your skin!  Spray your shoes and clothing and let them dry before you plan your outing. 

7.  Bathe or shower soon after being outdoors.  This can help prevent ticks which are crawling on you from attaching but not always.

8.  Do a full body check, use a hand held mirror to check areas you can't reach and be sure to ask someone to thoroughly check through your hair and scalp.  Parents, check your children carefully looking under arms, in and around their ears, inside their belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist and especially throughout the hair and on their head. Basically check everything especially warm, dark areas where ticks prefer.

9.  Throw your clothes in the dryer immediately after returning from outside. Keep them in for at least an hour, the heat will kill any ticks that are crawling around on them.

10.  Be sure to check any gear that you've taken with you on your outdoor adventures especially your beloved pets.  Remember that your pets can bring ticks right into your home and if you allow them on your furniture you've exposed yourself further.  Chemical tick applications and collars are no guarantee.

While you may not have found a tick on you during your check one could attach afterwards from your pet.

Finally, just because you didn't find a tick on you, it doesn't mean that you are in the clear, many people with chronic Lyme Disease never recall being bit.

Throughout the Spring, Summer and Fall months it's very important to be extra observant about any symptoms that you may have that could indicate an infection from a tick or other insect.

Keep track of fevers, joint or muscle pain that you don't normally have, flu like symptoms, rashes of any type but especially if they are a bulls-eye. 

If you're keeping a medical notebook, such as the one I shared with you in a my post The Most Important Notebook You'll Ever Keep, write down anything suspicious.  This could help you determine if your risk of having a vector-borne infection is reasonable.

When to Seek Out Medical Care
ILADS physicians are now recommending treatment for every tick bite because of the vast amount of infections one tick can carry (ILADS Treatment Guidelines).  This can be very difficult, especially if you spend a great deal of time in areas where your risk of exposure is greater.  There are more natural ways to treat but antibiotics have been proven to completely take care of an early infection.

One last thing, it is believed that Lyme Disease is a sexually transmitted disease, can be passed on from mother to baby during pregnancy as well as through breastfeeding and has become a problem in our blood supply.

Knowledge is power and will give you the tools you'll need to continue to enjoy the great outdoors while still protecting yourself and your family.

Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace or supersede patient care by a healthcare provider.  If you suspect the presence of a tick-borne illness, you should consult a healthcare provider who is familiar with the diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne diseases.

If you're interested in Young Living Oils, I'd love to help you.  You can purchase them here: www.youngliving.com using my distributor #1206972.  If you have any questions, send me an email at aboundinginhope1513@gmail.com

A Quick Look At Lyme Disease
Testing for Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease & Co-Infection Systems
International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS)

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