This is the conclusion of a three-part series exploring Lyme disease: how to test for it, treat it, and prevent it.
Like any disease, Lyme disease is best avoided. While many of the most common diseases today can be held at bay with proper diet and exercise, Lyme disease requires special precautions to avoid the ticks that spread it.
Awareness in Nature
Ticks usually hang out in wooded areas with lots of shrubs, tall grasses and weeds, and leaf litter. Ticks will attach themselves to whoever brushes by. When hiking or walking in nature, stay in the middle of the path and avoid contact with low-lying brush. Wearing light-colored clothing and long pants provides a protective barrier for the skin against ticks. Tuck pant legs into the socks to safeguard this barrier.
Use Tick Repellant
Conventional recommendations to use DEET to deter ticks may prove helpful to avoid tick bites, but will leave individuals exposed to heavy toxins. From my perspective, using essential oils in insect repellent sprays and embedded into flea and tick collars on pets is effective and safe. In fact, research indicates that lemon eucalyptus is also a strong tick deterrent and can be as effective as DEET.
This recipe has been a tried-and-true alternative to conventional bug spray for people and pets. Made with essential oils, there are no harmful chemicals or ingredients.
- 5 drops peppermint essential oil
- 5 drops cedarwood essential oil
- 7 drops lavender essential oil
- 10 drops geranium essential oil
- 10 drops lemongrass essential oil
- 15 drops lemon eucalyptus essential oil
Place the essential oils in a four-ounce glass spray bottle. Fill to the shoulders of the bottle with clean, filtered water. Tightly secure the spray lid. When enjoying the outdoors, mist yourself, loved ones, or your dog with several sprays of this concoction. Reapply as needed.
There are also services that spray your yard with garlic oil, which is a natural tick deterrent. Many who live in Lyme endemic areas find this protective measure vitally important in preventing tick-borne pathogens from infecting their loved ones and pets.
Perform Daily Tick Checks
An obvious, but sometimes overlooked step in avoiding tick-borne illness is conducting proper tick checks when coming inside after time in nature. This should be done very thoroughly, looking in all areas of the body, especially creases, including:
- under the arms
- around the ears
- belly button
- throughout the hair
It is helpful to use a magnifier and a flashlight to be able to spot a tick since many are the size of a poppyseed. If a tick is found, wrap it up in a piece of tape and throw it in the outside trash.
Properly Remove a Tick
Removing an attached tick as soon as you find it is imperative to preventing illness because the longer ticks are attached, the greater their propensity to transmit pathogens. To remove an embedded tick, use a pair of needle-nose tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Twisting or jerking can cause mouthparts to remain embedded in the skin.
There are various tick removing instruments on the market as well, follow the instructions for the specific instrument when removing a tick with it. Once the tick has detached, examine the bite site to ensure the mouthparts were completely removed. Wash your hands with soap and water.
Lavender essential oil has powerful antimicrobial properties and may help kill pathogens. You can apply it (diluted in a carrier oil or neat, depending on the sensitivity of the skin) every five minutes for the first 30 to 40 minutes after removing the tick.
Testing a Tick
After removing the tick, it should be placed in a sealed plastic bag with a moist paper towel or cotton ball for proper pathogen testing. Testing a tick can provide insight into infections you may have been exposed to. Any tick-borne pathogen is important to treat as soon as possible so that chronic infection doesn’t set in, regardless of how the tick tests. TickReport and IGeneX offer reliable tick testing. Keep in mind that a tick-testing positive is not a guarantee of infection. If you don’t wish to test the tick, place it in a piece of tape and throw it away—preferably outside of the home.
The Tick-Borne Pathogen and Mold Connection
Many patients who struggle with Lyme disease have also been exposed to mold that hinders their immune function. Many clinicians recognize Lyme disease and mold illness as significant pieces in biotoxin-related illness. These biotoxins, along with many others, have the ability to trip the switch for chronic inflammation and immune suppression. When mold and other biotoxins are not swiftly and efficiently removed from the body, they have the potential to instigate a progressive, multi-symptom illness that impacts numerous systems within the body.
When this happens, the body is in a chronic inflammatory state that Dr. Richie Shoemaker calls chronic inflammatory response syndrome, or CIRS. Many practitioners within the functional medicine world refer to it as mold and biotoxin illness because deeper testing reveals exposure to at least one biotoxin. Tick-borne pathogens and mold exposure are both biotoxins that can trip the inflammatory cascade.