We have all heard that tick bites can ‘give’ you Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other not so nice pathogens that can cause a range of physical symptoms that are generally unpleasant. In fact, there is are ‘new’ emerging illnesses called Babesiosis and another one called STARI (Southern Tick-Associated Rash) that are becoming more and more prevalent. The first one is primarily seen in the Northeast corridor and spreading into the Mid-West (like Lyme Disease) and STARI is spreading in the Southern regions. And as in many cases preventing tick bites is your best bet against the diseases that they carry (some of which are very hard to diagnosis and often mimic other types of infections since their symptoms can be very vague). You may scroll down to the very bottom of this blog to see the diseases that ticks carry.
Keep grass cut low and free from brush/leaf litter
Keep bushes, trees and grass away from the house or your sitting area
Discourage deer and choosing planting that are deer resistant
Use some sort of chemical control…now, I do not advocate using chemicals, but that is my choice. There several good organic pesticides on the market that do not harm people or animals, you can also use drying agents such as Diatomaceo Earth on yards, trees and shrubs. There are a lot of choices out there so check around.
If out in the woods, wear light colored clothing, long sleeves and pants. Keep your shirt tucked in and preferably keep your pant legs tucked into your socks also. Alternately you may use a rubber band around the ankle on the outside of your pants.
Use a repellant… there are several types of repellents available, most containing DEET.
Again, I do not like to use chemicals as they tend to build up in your body and can cause immune and neurological system distress. There are some alternatives that work:
Use rubbing alcohol on your bare skin…rub it generously all over your bare skin and let dry completely before heading out. Ticks and other nasty insects do not like it (including mosquitoes) Reapply if you get sweaty for a period of time.
Use mentho (Vicks) vapor rub on your pant legs…again, they don’t like this.
Use one of the following essential oil repellants (may use on animals too except for cats!):
Spray bottle with ¼ c water
20 drops Eucalyptus oil
15 drops Tea tree oil
15 drops of peppermint oil
½ cup water
40 drops rose geranium oil
15 cedarwood oil
A good all around insect repellant that can also be used in the yard, on counter-tops and animals:
2 pts lemon eucalyptus
1 pt cedarwood
1 pt clove
2 pts citronella
1 pt lemongrass
3 pts rosemary
3 pts peppermint
You may use this by the drop (1 drop equals 1 part) or teaspoon or tablespoon…depending on how much you want to make…it is good for skin, clothing, fur, general purpose insect repellant.
Typically I will make a large batch of this and use 10ml (2 tablespoons about) to 8 ounces of water in a sprayer. Make sure to shake and then spray.
Alternately I also make a 10% dilution with patichouli oil in a homemade soap for bathing and using in the shower. While this isn’t as effective as using a repellant, I have found that the ticks will crawl on me but not bite too often.
You may also use a good Neem oil shampoo/body wash (dogs, people, etc. NO CATS!)
Plants that are used to repel ticks and other noxious insects:
With prevention addressed we now turn to what to do after being outside (even on the golf course!)
Find and Remove Ticks from Your Body
Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you. And use a soft scrub brush or body poof to remove the next to impossible to see deer tick that you may not see.
Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and shoes and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs. Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.
Next, what to do if you find a tick:
How to remove a tick
Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
Time is of the essence in removing the tick to prevent a tick-borne disease! It takes a tick at LEAST 36 hours of being attached BEFORE it can pass along any pathogens in its gut/mouth! Always check yourself and remove immediately. There is ‘folklore’ about applying fingernail polish and petroleum jelly, etc. in order to suffocate the tick making it back out on its own. The only thing that I have seen work within seconds is dabbing the tick with Wintergreen essential oil…ticks hate this oil and it is toxic to them! However, those who use products such as Ben Gay or are on an aspirin regimen should avoid wintergreen oil…sometimes the old fashion way is best…grab and remove!
Prevent Infection from Tick-borne Pathogens Yourself!
I highly recommend a proactive approach if you live in an area prone to ticks such as rural areas or if you work, hunt, play in the great outdoors…eat your garlic…garlic is a well-known ‘natural’ anti-viral/antibiotic that also helps to boost your immune system. Get plenty of the B vitamins…creepy crawlies and flying creepies do not like the smell of the B vitamins and won’t hang around to eat you.
If you ARE bitten, use an herbalbiotic for 7 days to help prevent problems (see article on herbalbiotics). Preferably use Usnea or Goldenseal along with Echinacea.
Also, for the next 7 days use Burdock root to help cleanse the blood, either tincture, pill or infusion (strong tea). Follow instructions provided on the labeling of what you purchase.
Alternately you may also use the homeopathic nosode for Ticks, especially recommended if you live in a high risk area where cases are being reported – The Tick Nosode may be bought from here Tick Nosode
How to use this nosode: 10 drops per day before a meal and after at least 20 minutes of something being in the mouth.
To help antidote the bite, take the homeopathic Ledum 30C 3-5 pellets 3 times a day for 1 day and then begin the Tick Nosode. Do NOT take both at the sametime. Take the Ledum first and then follow up with the nosode.
A blend known as 4 Thieves Essential Oil applied to the bite site several times a day for 3 days may help prevent tick-borne diseases.
There are specific essential oil blends to use if you know what type of tick bit you, contact a professional clinical aromatherapist for this information.
Be sure to watch for secondary infections from a tick bite. As with any type of wound that breaks the skin a secondary infection may occur. Use appropriate caution to ensure the bite area heals correctly. Again, I highly recommend using 4 Thieves essential oil or a similar antibiotic essential oil blend or another topical antibiotic…even honey! But the 4 Theives oil blend seems to help heal it up fast and stop the itching associated with the poison the tick injects to numb the area (to which many people are allergic and often causes the redness and itching long after the tick is gone).
With this said, your best defense to preventing an acquired tick-born pathogen is using some sort of repellant and removing them promptly. Remember, the tick must be attached at LEAST 36 hrs before it can begin to transmit an infection. Catch them as soon as possible and take some simple preventative measures to boost your immune system or a prophylactic herbalbiotic and you should be just fine!
To what ticks may be in your area please visit the following CDC page:
A list of tick borne diseases:
Tickborne Diseases of theU.S.
(You may follow the links for more information on the disease itself)
Anaplasmosis is transmitted to humans by tick bites primarily from the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) in the northeastern and upper midwesternU.S. and the western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus) along the Pacific coast.
Babesiosis is transmitted by the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) and is found primarily in the easternU.S.
Ehrlichiosis is transmitted to humans by the lone star tick (Ambylomma americanum), found primarily in the southcentral and easternU.S.
Lyme disease is transmitted by the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) in the northeasternU.S. and upper Midwestern U.S. and the western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus) along the Pacific coast.
Rickettsia parkeri Rickettsiosis is transmitted to humans by theGulfCoast tick (Amblyomma maculatum).
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is transmitted by the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis),RockyMountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni), and the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sangunineus) in theU.S. The brown dog tick and other tick species are associated with RMSF in Central andSouth America.
STARI (Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness) is transmitted via bites from the lone star tick (Ambylomma americanum), found in the southeastern and easternU.S.
Tickborne relapsing fever (TBRF) is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected soft ticks. TBRF has been reported in 15 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming and is associated with sleeping in rustic cabins and vacation homes.
Tularemia is transmitted to humans by the dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), the wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni), and the lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum). Tularemia occurs throughout theU.S.
364D Rickettsiosis (Rickettsia phillipi, proposed) is transmitted to humans by thePacificCoast tick (Dermacentor occidentalis ticks). This is a new disease that has been found inCalifornia.
Symptoms of Tickborne Illness
Many tickborne diseases can have similar signs and symptoms. If you have been bitten by a tick and develop the symptoms below within a few weeks, a health care provider should evaluate the following before deciding on a course of treatment:
- Your symptoms
- The geographic region in which you were bitten
- Diagnostic tests, if indicated by the symptoms and the region where you were bitten
The most common symptoms of tick-related illnesses are: (one very good reason to be PROACTIVE with herbs, essential oils or homeopathy)
- Fever/chills: With all tickborne diseases, patients can experience fever at varying degrees and time of onset.
- Aches and pains: Tickborne disease symptoms include headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. With Lyme disease you may also experience joint pain. The severity and time of onset of these symptoms can depend on the disease and the patient’s personal tolerance level.
- Rash: Lyme disease, southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), ehrlichiosis, and tularemia can result in distinctive rashes:
- In Lyme disease, the rash may appear within 3-30 days, typically before the onset of fever. The Lyme disease rash is the first sign of infection and is usually a circular rash called erythema migrans or EM. This rash occurs in approximately 70-80% of infected persons and begins at the site of a tick bite. It may be warm, but is not usually painful. Some patients develop additional EM lesions in other areas of the body several days later.
- The rash of (STARI) is nearly identical to that of Lyme disease, with a red, expanding “bulls eye” lesion that develops around the site of a lone star tick bite. Unlike Lyme disease, STARI has not been linked to any arthritic or neurologic symptoms.
- The rash seen with Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) varies greatly from person to person in appearance, location, and time of onset. About 10% of people with RMSF never develop a rash. Most often, the rash begins 2-5 days after the onset of fever as small, flat, pink, non-itchy spots (macules) on the wrists, forearms, and ankles and spreads to the trunk. It sometimes involves the palms and soles. The red to purple, spotted (petechial) rash of RMSF is usually not seen until the sixth day or later after onset of symptoms and occurs in 35-60% of patients with the infection.
- In the most common form of tularemia, a skin ulcer appears at the site where the organism entered the body. The ulcer is accompanied by swelling of regional lymph glands, usually in the armpit or groin.
- In about 30% of patients (and up to 60% of children), ehrlichiosis can cause a rash. The appearance of the rash ranges from macular to maculopapular to petechial, and may appear after the onset of fever.
Tickborne diseases can result in mild symptoms treatable at home to severe infections requiring hospitalization. Although easily treated with antibiotics, these diseases can be difficult for physicians to diagnose. However, early recognition and treatment of the infection decreases the risk of serious complications. So see your doctor immediately if you have been bitten by a tick and experience any of the symptoms described here.
Remember, you can prevent becoming sick if you ARE bitten so be proactive and use what you have from the natural world and you should be fine.