STRATEGIES FOR TICK PREVENTION AND MANAGEMENT
If you live near or spend time in wooded areas blood sucking ticks are part of your world. This year’s early spring brought with it an early and very active tick season. Knowing how to prevent tick bites as well as how to handle a tick bite effectively is key to avoiding health consequences such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Tick Paralysis.
The first strategy in tick prevention is to understand the types of ticks and the various mammals that may be carrying this pesky parasite. Caused by the bacterium Borrelia brugdorferi, Lyme disease is carried by deer ticks (also known as black-legged ticks). White-footed mice frequently serve as reservoirs for the bacteria, as do deer and many other mammals. Other tick species transmit diseases as well, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever as well as Tick Paralysis affecting both humans and animals. Check out this website for a great resource in tick identification.
Ticks are most likely to transmit Lyme disease to humans when they are tiny nymphs (juvenile ticks), only slightly bigger than the period at the end of this sentence. Lyme disease manifests as a multi-system inflammatory disease that may affect the skin in its early, localized stage, and later spreads to the joints, central nervous system, and other organ systems. Stephen Harrod Buhner explains in his book, Healing Lyme: Natural Healing and Prevention of Lyme Borreliosis and Its Coinfections (Silver City, NM: Raven Press; 2005:12), “[Lyme spirochetes] literally “screw” or “worm” their way through tissues to the sites they wish to colonize. This kind of mobility allows them to colonize highly viscous mediums such as the collagenous tissues around the knees or the aqueous humour of the eye.”
It can be very overwhelming knowing that a simple bite from a tick could produce such serious health consequences. However with an ounce of preparation and strategic planning one can greatly reduce the chances of a tick bite as well as be prepared to handle any potential tick bite with ease and confidence.
10 STRATEGIES FOR EFFECTIVE TICK MANAGEMENT
- Wear strategic clothing: Before your adventure to the woods prepare by wearing clothing that makes it hard for ticks to tag along. Wear a hat, tie long hair back into a ponytail or bun. Wear light coloured clothing (helps you see ticks before they find skin), and tuck your shirt into your pants and your pants into your socks.
- Pack a lint roller.A link roller will pick up unattached ticks from clothing or pets. Carry one in your backpack and use it often.
- Be on active tick patrol. Before you come indoors after outside activities, shake out your clothing, brush out your hair and triple check your pets.
- Do Tick Checks.Ticks must feed for 36 to 48 hours in order to transmit Lyme disease, so regularly checking yourself for ticks after you’ve been in wooded areas is a hugely effective preventive measure. Look for tiny and foreign dark dots, especially in moist body creases in the armpits, groin, hairline, scalp, waistband and the backs of your knees.
- Upgrade Your Tick Removal Equipment.If you’re using tweezers to remove an attached tick from yourself or your pets, you’re doing it the hard way. Instead, try using small tick removal “spoons” such as the “Tick Twister” for little deer ticks or a “Ticked Key” tick remover for larger dog ticks. Look for them at pet stores or from online merchants.
- Maximize Natural Predators: Ticks have few natural predators however gineau hens and chickens make fast food out of these pests. In a study from South Africa, chickens were found to eat an average of 10 ticks per hour.
- Keep your yard tidy, grass cut. Ticks are most likely to find you as you walk through tall grass or hang out in shady, mulched areas. Open space makes poor tick habitat and acts a good buffer zone between your house and the wilder habitats preferred by ticks.
- Use natural tick deterrent products. If you venture into tick territory often consider using deterrent products. Covering the exposed skin with a greasy salve that contains essential oils such as geranium, eucalyptus citriadora, and lavender not only repels ticks due to its scent it stops the ticks from being able to attach to the skin. (Visit Emery Herbals to obtain more info and try our TICK OFF salve).
- Support the immune system: Why is it that one individual recovers from a tick bite with no issues while another struggles with a negative health outcome? The answer is Immune System Strength. When the immune system is strong and resilient a parasitical attack on the body (aka a tick bite) is resolved quickly and without consequence. But when the immune system is compromised, sluggish or weak the consequences can be dire. Focus on all the building blocks of a healthy immune system so if a tick bite does happen your arsenal of defense is stocked and ready.
- Follow a tick removal protocol.If you do find an attached tick, remove it carefully and completely (very important) with tweezers or a tick removal tool, wipe the bite with an antiseptic, and circle it with a permanent marker. Check the bite location for changes such as a rash or other unusual inflammation, and promptly seek medical attention from a Lyme literate health professional if you see or experience any symptoms of Lyme disease. The disease is curable if treated in its early stages, but if you wait too long, you could be in for a long and difficult recovery.