May is National Lyme Awareness Month and Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial beginning of summer here in the South. As the weather ramps up it's time to get ourselves outside! As someone who has healed from Lyme Disease I know firsthand how important it is to be able to be outside without fear of illness to enjoy all the healing and beauty that nature offers.
Below are some practical tips that are applicable to everyone - not just outdoor enthusiasts on how to potentially prevent Lyme Disease. Ticks and other biting insects that can potentially harbor disease are everywhere; city parks, soccer parks, hitching a ride on our beloved dogs, they are absolutely everywhere so knowing how to protect ourselves is knowledge we simply all need to know to be safe and fully enjoy our time outdoors!
GO OUTSIDE. ENJOY THE BEAUTY. FEEL THE HEALING. BE PREPARED.
You may have seen all over the news that tick-born illnesses are on the rise. In this graph issued by the CDC in 2017 you can see that Lyme Disease has been reported in all 50-states. There is simply not a place in the U.S. or the greater world for that matter where this potential does not exist. If you have heard otherwise then you may be hearing from someone who is misinformed. Staying inside in fear for the rest of your life is not an option! But educating yourself on this important topic is.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
Here are 7 practical tips on how to potentially prevent contracting Lyme Disease. With these tips you can fully enjoy romping in the great outdoors and embrace being outside whether you are a city slicker, a backpacker or somewhere in between. I also offer a DIY recipe at the end of this article for a non-toxic insect repellent with ingredients that have been shown to be effective against ticks and other biting insects.
Tip #1: Tuck your pants inside socks, wear long sleeves and light colored clothes
Join the dork club! I think it's going to become a new fashion statement. Dressing this way gives less surface space for potential insects to attach to exposed skin and makes anything that is crawling on you easier to see.
Besides, nerds are cool.
Tip #2: Use bug repellent to the level of your comfort so you can enjoy the great outdoors
Get outside. It's important, it's healing and has so many health benefits. Having said that, use repellent to protect yourself to the level you need to in order to feel comfortable doing so. Just know that there is a hierarchy of potential toxicity in regards to different inorganic ingredients in many products on the market such as DEET, Picaridin and Permethrin. I am not suggesting that these never be used, however, many of these products have been shown to be neurotoxic over time so having another daily option is a good idea. Several essential oils have been shown to be as effective as DEET, such as Lemon Eucalyptus, Lemongrass and Geranium to name a few, in regards to biting insects and ticks and are a great choice for everyday use. Learn about what is inside your products, and know what works best for you. As my wise kids say, "you do you.”
Tip #3: Put your clothes directly in to the washer or dryer after coming inside
If clothes are dirty wash them in hot water. If they are not dirty, place them in the dryer on high heat to spin for 30-minutes. Washing in cold or warm water has not been shown to kill ticks in a wash cycle. Added bonus - clean fresh clothes.
Tip #4: Do a proper full body tick check
Buddy up! Get personal! Have a friend or family member check you. If that is not an option use a
mirror to check in those areas ticks love to hide-
under the arms, in and around the ears, the hairline, waist and belly button, behind the knees and between the legs. They like warm areas and will tend to migrate there.
Tip #5: Shower within 2 hours of coming in from the outdoors
This is the current recommendation by the CDC. I'm not exactly sure where they get the
2-hours from and what the science is behind that, but there ya go. Once you do a proper full body check, hop in the shower, lather up, grab a washcloth and scrub your body. Sounds like more good hygiene to me.
Tip #6: Don't forget to check your pets and any outdoor gear your brought inside
Our beloved, furry friends are not immune to carrying unwanted ticks inside. Be sure to check them thoroughly as well as any tents, backpacks or other gear carried while outdoors. No hitchhikers allowed.
Tip #7: Wear clove essential oil to bed and spray your bedsheets
Ticks work off a sense of smell. If you, your clothes or bedsheets smell in a way that ticks do not like you are less likely to be bitten. Clove in particular has been shown to be one of the most effective essential oils to repel ticks. Added bonus -spraying your sheets and yourself smells simply lovely!
These practical tips don't take a lot of time and the repercussions if you do get bitten can change your life. I urge you to take the time to ensure your health.
DIY Essential Oil Bug Spray
For those of you who like to do a little mixology in the kitchen, here is my recipe for essential oil bug spray. I keep a bottle by my front door, give it a quick shake and apply liberally before heading out the door. I do recommend applying this type of water/witch hazel based EO bug spray hourly and shaking before each use. There are many recipes out there that add oil that will extend the coverage but I like how light and non-sticky this feels on my skin. Plus, I smell GOOD..... but bad to ticks and other biting bugs!
Earth Mama's EO Bug Spray
40 drops Lemon Eucalyptus EO
20 drops Geranium EO
10 drops Clove EO
10 drops Lavender EO
4 ounces Distilled water
4 Tablespoons Witch hazel
4-oz spray bottle
Mix all together, label, date it and you are ready to go!
And if mixology is not your thing you can find many products on the market that have already done the mixing for you. But again, do your own research, know what you are spraying on your skin and the skin of your little loved ones.