Tips to Prevent Tick Bites and Lyme Disease: Keeping Your Family Safe
Reviewed by Lisa Blohm, PhD, MSN, RN
Disclaimer: The following information has not been approved by the FDA. This information should not be interpreted as medical advice and is not a substitute for a visit with a medical care professional. Always speak to your doctor about any health concerns.
Last month was Lyme Disease Awareness Month. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Lyme, or Chronic Lyme Disease, it is a complex bacterial infection that’s exploded in the United States. Lyme disease has spread throughout almost all of the US, and is found in Europe, Asia, and other countries and continents as well. This deadly disease, carried primarily by ticks, leads to an almost endless list of symptoms, ranging from uncomfortable to life-threatening.
Chances are, you know several people (diagnosed or otherwise) right this second that are struggling with Chronic Lyme disease. (Stats show that it’s two times more common than breast cancer and growing every year.)
For information on the history of Chronic Lyme Disease and its many manifestations, read this article.
As we approached Lyme Awareness month, we wondered what we would like to share with you. And this year, rather than focusing on dealing with the many symptoms, possible nutritive aids, or education on how to support people struggling with this devastating disease, we wanted to put the focus on avoiding it altogether.
The danger is real, but we also don’t want our families to be confined to cement walkways and indoors all year round. We can’t live in fear. But we can live wisely, and take precautions.
So, here are some suggestions from our team on how you can avoid tick-exposure this year. (And don’t forget to share this information with your family and friends!)
Natural, Bug Repellant Lawn Sprays
We think the best way to avoid ticks is to keep them out of the yard altogether. For years, however, we struggled with knowing which was worse — possible tick exposure or a yard loaded with toxic chemicals?
Thankfully, we don’t need to worry anymore! We found a great lawn care service in Madison, WI that offered organic, natural lawn sprays that kill ticks, mosquitos, earwigs, roaches, wasps — and their larva and eggs! Any bugs not present when the spray is applied will be deterred from entering the treated area. Each treatment lasts 30 days, so plan for 4-6 treatments over the course of spring to fall.
Hesitant about chemical lawn sprays? We were too! But Mother Earth Organic Lawn Care is just as opposed to toxic chemicals as we are. Here’s their mission statement:
“Mother Earth Organic cares deeply about the impact on the environment and we are always seeking eco-friendly ways to perform our work. We refuse to use traditional chemical-based products and believe in buying locally whenever possible.”
Caution when it comes to landscaping won’t solve all the possible tick problems, but it will help cut down on the risks. Ticks love tall grass, brush, and messy growth They climb up to the top of the stalks where they wait for animals and humans to walk by so they can climb up their host for dinner.
- Keep your lawn cut short. Avoid tall grass and bushes in your yard.
- Don’t leave piles of wood or rubbish in the yard. Rodents will live in them, and drop ticks into your yard area.
- Get rid of piles of dry leaves.
- Don’t use wood chips in landscaping.
If you’re able to, we also recommend that you create a perimeter of gravel or pavement around your yard. The ticks won’t want to cross this, which should help to keep your yard tick-free. If you have playsets, try to place them 10 feet away from the gravel perimeter. Opt for grass, sand, pebbles, or foam mats beneath playsets rather than wood chips.
Natural Bug Spray
Ticks have particular smells and oils that they hate, and there are some essential oils that are perfect for repelling ticks. This is one of our top ways of keeping our family active during the summer months when we go for hikes, to Grandpa and Grandma’s house in the woods, or even just to a local park for playtime (where the grass hasn’t been treated for ticks).
Basically, if my kids head outside, they spritz themselves down with one of these essential oil blends to repel bugs. They aren’t sticky and they smell beautiful. We like Plant Therapy KidSafe Shield Me Roller Bottle.
You can find more suggestions of natural tick spray options here. Or, you can also quickly make up your own natural tick repellent spray as well!
Homemade Essential Oil Spray
In a six-ounce spray bottle, combine the following ingredients.
- 20 drops of essential oils – use any of these Eucalyptus Citriodora (Lemon Eucalyptus), Cedar, Lemongrass, Citronella, or Plant Therapy KidSafe Shield Me Essential Oil Blend
Put essential oils and dish soap or glycerin in the sprayer bottle. Add water. Shake before using.
Shake before each use. Mist skin and clothing, do not soak. This recipe also helps to prevent gnats from burrowing into hair. Just spray over a hat, bandana, or your hair — just be careful you don’t spray this on your face and keep out of reach of young children. Do not ingest or allow contact with eyes.
How To Use Natural Bug Spray for Ticks
I know, you’re thinking, “I know how to use bug spray…” But believe us when we say that a general misting is great, but there are a couple secrets to deterring ticks. Whether you choose to make your own or buy it, here’s how to use your spray for best effect:
- Spritz onto the feet and shoes.
- Spritz onto the back of the neck (lifting hair to get to the skin) and along the hairline and behind the ears.
- Spritz onto the wrists.
- Spritz the cuffs of pants and sleeves of shirts.
This tackles all the primary potential points of contact — the hands and feet — and the ticks favorite places to attach — the neck and hairline.
Smart Playtime and Outdoor Adventures
If you’re going camping, hiking, or on an extended outdoor adventure, we suggest adding a few more steps to the before-playtime spray-down list.
- Wear comfortable long pants. Natural breathable fibers are best to stay cool in hot weather.
- Tuck your pants into your socks.
- Spray the socks, pants, and shoes with an all natural bug-repellent spray, like those listed above.
- Spray the back of the neck, hairline, behind the ears, and the wrists. Lightly spray your clothing as well.
- Avoid areas of long grass or tall brush.
- After you are done adventuring, ALWAYS CHECK FOR TICKS IMMEDIATELY.
- Place all adventure-day clothing straight into the washing machine and launder promptly.
Another key trick for outdoor adventures is this amazing product — a permethrin-based tick and mosquito repellent that is non-toxic to humans. This product actually kills ticks! It is an extremely effective treatment for clothing, shoes, tents, backpacks, etc. An application can last 6 weeks, or for 6 washings, or in the case of a tent up to 40 days of direct sunlight. Liberally spray all fabric items before you set out.
Skin application isn’t harmful, just ineffective, because it is quickly deactivated by the skin.
Pets are beloved best friends, and they need protection too. And because many of our pets are outside a lot, we also need protection from the ticks they may be carrying.
Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of great options out there (yet!) for our pets. But, there are a few ways we can try to limit the risks.
- Pet Bug Spray. Your pet might not love you for this, as the smell of essential oils is extra strong to them, but it will help to deter ticks from hitching a ride on your pet’s fur. We recommend Amrita Essential Oil Spray – Bugs Be Gone for Pets.
The world was created to naturally be brought into balance, and embracing wildlife will help the earth do exactly that. There are some types of wildlife that are amazing at clearing out tick populations.
- Opossum (these little guys can eat up to 5,000 ticks in a single season!)
So, if you happen to notice any of these creatures around, leave them be! They’re doing you a huge favor.
Start a BackYard Farm!
Chickens and guinea fowl are voracious tick-eaters. If you have the inclination, the space, and the permission from your HOA, bring in some fowl! They will effectively clear your yard and garden of ticks and many other pests as well.
And you can have the pleasure of pet chickens and fresh eggs every morning!
Herbs and Supplements to Support Your Immune System
If your immune system is strong and healthy, you stand a much better chance of fighting off infection if a bite does occur. Here are a few herbs and supplements we’d recommend to keep your immune system strong all season.
- Elderberry Syrup. Not surprised to hear that elderberry has made it into our lineup, huh? Yes, this is an immune-boosting staple in our household that we can’t live without. It tastes delicious, kids love it, and it’ll help ward off any number of viruses and infections.
Check For Ticks
Tick checks are such a matter of course in our house that our kids don’t even question it. It takes only a minute per kid, and is hugely important. Teach your kids to check each other and to check themselves as well.
- Check the body for crawling ticks. Look at all the skin!
- Feel behind the ears, in the armpits, and around any areas where clothing was pulled tight to the skin, such as panty lines.
- Carefully check the scalp. Start at the nape of the neck and move up, paying particular attention to the hairline and around the ears. Use your fingers or a comb to carefully move the hair so you can see the scalp.
- Check the ears. This includes inside the ears as well. Ticks love to hide in the folds of the ears.
What To Do If You Find a Tick
All the precautions in the world can’t guarantee that you won’t have a day where you discover a tick on yourself or a kid. In fact, considering the tick population, it would be a miracle if this day never arrived for you.
When it does, don’t panic. Well, don’t panic much. But you do need to act quickly.
- Remove the tick correctly using a tick kit. Do not burn it, pinch it, or twist it. These methods can cause the tick to regurgitate back into your skin (giving you an extra dose of bacteria), or can twist off the head which remains embedded in the skin.
- Send the tick in for testing promptly. Don’t just wait for symptoms to arrive. Remember, the bull’s eye rash only appears for a fraction of Lyme cases! Send the tick in to a testing company, like this one, to know for sure if you or your child needs immediate treatment.
Find Your Healthy Place (and Tick-Free Zone) at The Healthy Place in Madison
We take Lyme and its risks seriously at The Healthy Place. If you have any questions on how to prevent and treat this serious disease, we’re here to help you find answers.
For those of you who are suffering, know that we’re here to help and support in any way we can. As many of you are often recommended unusual herbs and supplements, know that we’re happy to special order products for you whenever we can. Stop in either of our two store locations to talk, or give us a call at 608-663-2640.
Let’s work together to Find Your Healthy Place.
The Healthy Place Team
*Disclaimer: All information and recommendations given on this site, in email correspondence, newsletters or other materials provided by The Healthy Place is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice nor be viewed as a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with a healthcare provider. Consult a licensed healthcare practitioner before modifying, stopping, or starting the use of any medications, health programs, diets, and/or supplements, as well as regarding any health concerns you may have. Our statements and information have not been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. As with any health-related program, product, or service, your risks and results may vary. We expressly disclaim responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or damage caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the information provided to you here.”
The Healthy Place – Apple Wellness
6313 McKee Road Suite 100
Fitchburg, WI 53719
The Healthy Place – Apple Wellness
550 Junction Road
Madison, WI 53717
The Healthy Place – Apple Wellness
2824 Prairie Lakes Drive Suite 108
Sun Prairie, WI 53590