It’s official. Tick season is in full effect and I am getting frantic phone calls from panicked individuals who have recently pulled a tick off their children, pets, or themselves. Many of us still don’t understand the dangers of these disease transporting bugs but it’s time we finally learned the cold, hard facts. If a tick is infected, it could carry Lyme disease.
The symptoms of Lyme disease
Lyme disease is statistically the fastest growing infectious vector-borne disease in the Northern Hemisphere, and is twice as more common than breast cancer and six times more prevalent than aids. Because of the difficulty people face in reaching a diagnosis, the illness becomes a life-long challenge which comes with a tremendous financial burden in medical costs. For this reason, a tick exposure should never be taken lightly.
Early symptoms are often “flu like” with fatigue and malaise, including headache, neck pain, and fever. A characteristic rash which often resembles a bull’s-eye at the site of the bite is an early indicator of an infection and should never be ignored. Regrettably, not all individuals who contract this disease will manifest a rash; therefore, paying close attention to the above symptoms will serve as a sign that medical attention is needed. If left unattended, the condition will grow serious and can begin to mimic every disease process, in particular Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, Arthritis, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
How can you prevent infection?
The best way to prevent infection is to avoid tick-infested areas whenever possible, particularly in spring and early summer when nymph ticks feed. Ticks favour moist, shaded environments, in particular leafy wooded areas and overgrown grassy habitats. Campgrounds especially, are high risk areas. While we shouldn’t be afraid of the great outdoors, we can at the least incorporate simple strategies in minimizing our exposure to infectious carrying bugs. Here are the most helpful tips:
▪ Do frequent tick checks, especially on your pets and children.
▪ Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts outdoors whenever possible.
▪ Tuck your pants into your socks to prevent ticks from getting inside your pants.
▪ Wear light coloured clothing to make it easier to spot ticks.
▪ When hiking on pathways or trails, stay in the middle.
▪ Avoid low-lying brush, long grass, and wooden areas.
▪ As a natural repellent, apply essential oils like lemongrass and eucalyptus to the ankles, wrists, and neck.
If you find an attached tick, remove the tick as completely and as quickly as possible using a fine pair of tweezers and clean area with an antiseptic. After a bite occurs, DO NOT WAIT to develop symptoms. Go to your doctor and request antibiotics as a precaution, or visit a health food store for natural antimicrobials like Grapefruit Seed Extract or Oil of Oregano. We can’t truly know if a tick is infected, but we can certainly prevent the onset of illness by taking this important step.
With that said, I fully encourage you to embrace mother nature while you play hard in the sunshine. With a little awareness and knowledge, you can prevent the unnecessary burden of Lyme disease and keep you and your family safe with these guidelines.