Tick season is fully upon us, and it is not just people living in the woody areas of the country that should take precautions against these blood-sucking creatures.
Sure, they love the woods, they love dogs, and they love tall grass, but they are also learning to love city life. Knowing how to prevent, diagnose and treat tick bites is pertinent information, not just for those that live in the country.
Tick season, for the most part, is between April and September. While it is a good idea to be cautious of ticks all year round, in many parts of the United States, extra precaution should be taken in the warmest months when these small arachnid insects are most active.
On the Move
Lyme disease was first described in 1977 as “Lyme arthritis,” and is now the most commonly transmitted critter-vectored disease in North America. Each year over 30,000 new cases are reported, many in areas where no previous infections have been recorded before. Lyme disease is on the move, slowly pressing towards more populated regions. For this reason, city dwellers should not consider themselves safe from the threat of these pesky critters.
Why the Red Flag?
Why bother, you may ask, to worry about a teeny, tiny little tick? Well, the stakes for ignoring these small but highly dangerous insects can be huge. Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia brugdorferi and is carried by deer ticks or black-legged ticks. Deer and white-footed mice often serve as reservoirs for this bacteria. It is the small ticks that matter most; the juvenile ticks, which are only slightly bigger than a period at the end of a sentence, are the most dangerous.
Early diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease is essential to avoid complications that can last a remarkably long time. One of the big problems with diagnosis is training medical professionals to recognize the rash caused by the disease.
Most people think that the rash must have a bulls-eye appearance to indicate the disease, but this is not true. The rash actually resembles such things as dermatitis, spider bites, lupus or other common skin conditions, which makes it extremely difficult to spot.
According to an ongoing study that investigates diagnosis of Lyme disease, most prominent textbooks and websites feature a bulls-eye image rash pattern. This has become sort of the hallmark symptom of the disease. This misinformation could lead to a misdiagnosis and lack of treatment. Even more disturbing is the fact that not everyone with Lyme disease actually develops a rash.
Other signs of Lyme disease include flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, low grade fever and joint pain. If you feel that you may have been bitten by a tick and contracted Lyme disease, you can ask your physician for a lab test to identify antibodies. These tests are only reliable about three weeks after an infection.
Symptoms of Lyme disease that may not appear until weeks, months or even years later include arthritis, numbness and pain and irregular heart rhythm. Early diagnosis can prevent long-term complications that do not always respond favorably to antibiotics. Some people can develop chronic Lyme disease which can interfere with their quality of life.
If you enjoy the outdoors but are not so fond of returning from your nature experience covered in blood-sucking pests, there are a few things that you can do to protect yourself:
- Wear light-colored clothing
- Wear a hat and a long-sleeved shirt
- Tape the area where your socks and pants meet
- Tuck pants into boots
- Stick to the center of a trail if you are hiking
- Avoid areas of high grass
- After being outside, remove clothing and wash and dry it at a high temperature
- Inspect your body carefully, especially the hairline area, belly button, underarm area, behind your knees and your waist
- Check all gear that you took outside with you before bringing it into the home
- Check pets carefully
Homemade Tick Repellent
Although you could spray yourself with a chemical repellent, healthier options exist.
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon aloe vera gel
A small, empty bottle
25 drops of lavender essential oil
25 drops of geranium essential oil
- Pour the coconut oil into the small bottle (liquid form – heat it slightly if needed).
- Add the aloe vera gel and shake until the oil and aloe vera mix.
- Add the essential oils and shake again for about 30 seconds.
- Apply before you go outside.
-The Alternative Daily