Spending time in nature is a great way to get and stay well. Being outside helps reset the body’s natural circadian rhythm to help you maintain healthy sleep cycles. It also lowers stress and improves mood. Exposure to the sun is vital for vitamin D production, which is a key part of immune function. Spending time outside also lowers blood pressure, increases concentration, and helps restore body after watching TV, using smartphones, and sitting at a desk. Getting outside every day is a key to achieving wellness!
However, when you spend time outdoors, you’ve got to be aware of the threat of illness from ticks and Lyme disease, as well as other arachnids and insects. Some will just give you minor irritations, but others—such as ticks—can cause serious illness. In this post, you’ll find some tips to help you prevent and deal with insect bites. We highly recommend you get outside, just be prepared and know what to watch out for!
Avoiding tick bites in the first place in the best way to prevent any problems. Do everything you can to limit your exposure to ticks and tick habitats. Ticks don’t jump, they simply crawl or fall onto their next host, so:
- Avoid common tick habitats and hangouts such as thick brush and dense forests.
- Hike in the middle of trails, rather than on the edges where you brush up against vegetation.
- Stay away from areas with tall grasses. Ticks love spending time at the ends of tall grasses where they can easily drop onto your body or your pets.
- Cover up as much as possible. Wearing pants, tall socks, and long sleeves can help you prevent ticks from getting on your skin.
There are a number of things you can spray on yourself, your clothing, and your pets to deter ticks. Here are a few good options:
- Permethrin is the most effective option because it kills ticks on contact. Unfortunately, it’s also rather toxic, so use this on boots, backpacks, and the outside of clothing only.
- Essential oils such as lavender, lemongrass, eucalyptus, and lemon, can be useful to deter ticks and other arachnids and insects.
- Other effective, natural tick and insect repellents include products made by Tick Tock Naturals and Ticks n All.
Regular Tick Checks
Always check yourself, your kids, and your pets for ticks after you’ve spent time outside.
Remember that you can get ticks on your body anywhere—in the woods, in a park, and even in your front yard. Consider these tips for effective tick checking:
- Ticks are black and brown and can be very small. Wearing light-colored clothing when outdoors is helpful for spotting a tick on your body.
- Once inside, remove any clothing you have been wearing and either wash it or throw it in the dryer for 60 minutes.
- To check yourself, look in areas where ticks can easily hide: between toes, in your groin, armpits, and hair.
- Use a small hand mirror to check places you can’t see.
- If you don’t have someone to help check your hair (or other areas you can’t see), run your fingers gently over those areas and feel for small bumps. An attached tick will often feel like a small scab.
- If you feel something but can’t see it, have someone look for you before pulling it off.
Removing a Tick
Remove the tick as soon as possible! Ticks burrow into your skin, so the longer the tick is embedded, the more difficult it is to remove, and the more opportunity it has to transmit bacteria to you. If you find a tick that has already attached, follow these steps:
- Get a pair of tweezers, preferably with a sharp point.
- Aim for grabbing the tick by its head, rather than its body. If you just remove the body, the head will stay in and continue to transmit bacteria.
- Grab the tick as close to your skin as possible. The closer to the skin you are, the closer to the head you are.
- Pull up with firm, steady pressure away from your body. You are trying to get the tick to let go of its bite.
- Do everything you can to get the whole tick, head and all. You don’t want to leave any part of the tick in your skin.
- Clean the area with alcohol or soap and water.
- If you are unsuccessful in removing the tick, see a doctor to help you.
Ticks and Lyme Disease Testing
Even if you’ve successfully removed a tick from your body, the tick may be carrying Lyme disease or a number of other infections, which is why appropriate testing is crucial after a tick bite. It’s much easier to test the tick for Lyme disease than to test a person, so if you’ve removed a tick, bring it to your doctor or send it away for testing:
- Place the tick in a secure plastic bag.
- If it is still alive, double bag it to make sure it is secure.
- Do not tape the tick or put any chemicals or substances like alcohol on it.
- Send the tick to one of the following organizations for testing:
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
In the days and weeks after a tick bite, keep an eye out for the following, and see a healthcare practitioner immediately if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Rash: the rash can be the classic bulls-eye rash where there are concentric red and white circles around the bite area, or it can simply be red, or it can look like a spider bite. The rash is usually not itchy.
- Flu-like symptoms: fatigue, chills, aches, headache. Unlike flu, there are no respiratory symptoms related to Lyme.
- Stiff neck
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
Be sure to get outside this season and enjoy some fun in the sun! But just remember that the prevention and proper care of tick and insect bites is an important part of staying healthy and strong.