Lyme disease is prominent in the Midwest. In part 1 of the series, we discussed routes of transmission (conventional and some not-so-conventional). Part 2 we discussed signs, symptoms and treatment for Lyme disease. In the final part of this series, it’s time to talk about prevention.
The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to avoid being bit in the first place. I know this is a lot easier said than done, however taking in some thoughtful considerations might help to reduce your risk of being bitten.
- Wear light colored clothing: Light colors make it easier to see the dark colored ticks before they embed into the skin.
- Where full-coverage clothes: Socks, pants, long sleeve shirts and hats are a good idea if you plan on venturing into the woods. Ticks like warm, humid and damp areas of the skin, so the groin, armpits and hair, are especially susceptible to bites, so make sure to stay covered up.
- Dry your clothes: Research shows ticks can survive the washing machine, even when you wash in hot water. Most ticks die with a round of high heat in the dryer.
- Know where ticks travel: Ticks need humidity 80% or above to survive long durations, this is why we tend to see ticks in wooded areas. If you have wooded areas around your house, know there is a higher risk for ticks. Be vigilant, always check yourself and your children after playing outside. Remember, a small tick is the size of one poppy seed!
- Check your feline friends: Ticks love dogs and cats. If your pet is exposed to Lyme disease, you have a higher risk of being exposed. Animals should also be monitored and treated if Lyme disease is suspected.
- Treat your lawn: If you know your lawn tends to harbor ticks, you can safely treat it with different options. I like using Wondercide which has a safe and natural tick and mosquito spray for the lawn. The local Lawn Doctor also uses an all-natural and safe tick and mosquito treatment if you are looking for someone to safely apply it to your lawn.
- Treat your body: You will see a lot of websites telling you to apply DEET or Permethrin to all clothing prior to adventures. There are mixed reviews on DEET as some studies show that ticks can survive DEET exposures. As an integrative nurse practitioner, I understand the implications of constant toxin exposures including the above-mentioned toxins. I recommend using natural tick fighting sprays like Wondercide. Again, Wondercide (you can search for them online), is a great source of non-toxic sprays that can be applied to your clothing, body, animals and yard to remove ticks, bugs and other insects.
- If bit, remove the tick: Even when taking precautions, bites still happen. The best we can do with a bite is remove it as soon as we see it and remove it most effectively. Take a tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull upward, steady and even. No twisting needed. If a part of the tick remains embedded, wash with soapy water and give the body time to let it work itself out of the skin. You can send tick to testing sites like Igenex lab, to see what infections were in the tick. If you are looking to just get rid of the tick without having it tested, place tick in alcohol to dispose of it or flush it down the toilet.
Remember, the best way to stay safe this summer is to prevent you or your loved ones from getting bit by a tick in the first place and if this unfortunate event does happen, that you are proactive in the treatment of this debilitating disease. Hopefully this 3-part series, raised awareness with what to be looking for with Lyme disease.
As always, seek medical advice is you are unsure. And, if you have symptoms that correlate with Lyme disease, work with your provider or a Lyme specialist to get to the root of your symptoms.
Stephanie Grutz, ARNP, FNP-C