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Tick Bite Prevention and Removal
What To Do Immediately After a Tick Bite
- Tick populations are expected to be on the rise this year in 2018, so it’s important to know how to prevent tick attachments from happening, as well as what to do in the aftermath of an acute tick bite (which is actually a sting).
- Never pour anything over an attached tick, like essential oils or alcohol, and do not burn an attached tick to remove it. Instead, use a tick removal device to spin the tick and release it from your skin.
- After the tick has been removed, you can use anti-spirochete essential oils over the attachment site. There are homeopathic remedies you can take in the weeks to follow, along with supplements to boost your immune system and anti-microbial herbs.
- Plant-based products and essential oils can be helpful in prevention, and there are many that have research-study-backed efficacy ratings, such as oil of eucalyptus lemon (with 83% tick repelling capability), thyme, lavender, and clove.
- If you know you’ll be hiking or playing in wooded areas, be sure to take necessary precautions with natural repellents, long socks, and pants.
- Insect-repellent clothing typically contains Permethrin, which is effective against ticks, mosquitoes, mites, and black flies, but there has not been enough research to date to determine whether or not this chemical has long-term, neurotoxic effects on humans.
- It’s vital to protect yourself and your family at home, as well. Trim down overgrown grass and shrubs, keep your lawn freshly-mowed, and create a wood chip or gravel barrier between your house and any heavily wooded areas. A dry backyard with lots of sun (and not many wood or grass piles) is a yard a tick does not want to be in.
- Citronella candles (with soy wax and cotton wicks) may also provide some protection by emitting a scent that ticks and other insects do not enjoy, but make sure there’s no DEET or other heavy chemicals in those candles.
- Need more support for Lyme disease and co-infections? Check out Dr. Jay’s At-Home Lyme Disease program or apply for our one-on-one coaching.
School’s out for the summer, and that means countless hours spent outside in the sun: woodsy camping trips, cottage boat rides with friends, picnics in the park, and lazy afternoons laying in the lawn, watching the clouds pass by.
Many officials and experts are warning that incidences of Lyme disease are projected to increase this year, with the tick population exploding within the United States and around the world.1 You might think you’re safe just because you don’t spend a lot of time in remote forests, but that doesn’t mean you’re immune. Ticks can be found in urban populations or backyards, too.
With Lyme disease and other vector-borne illnesses becoming more and more common (not to mention the vast number of undiagnosed cases or false negatives when testing through conventional labs like the Western Blot), you shouldn’t have to stay inside all summer and watch your friends enjoying the community pool and local hiking trails. It is important, however, to consider both tick bite prevention, as well as emergency preparedness if a tick bite does occur.
It’s great to stock up on a few items in advance, including tick removal devices, so you’re not in panic mode when you see an attached tick. Keep reading to see which products you should get in the house today, how to remove a tick properly, and what to do immediately following a tick attachment.
Emergency preparedness, in some cases, may seem like an extreme and unnecessary action to take, bringing items in your house that you may never need to use, like stocking your basement with 10 years of 2000-calorie bars and hundreds of gallons of water just in case. But keeping a tick removal device, a few essential oils, and a homeopathic remedy in the house won’t break the bank–and it will help you to confidently enjoy your summer outside.
Identifying the Source and Transmission of Lyme
Though ticks have notoriously taken the rap for the transmission of Lyme disease, co-infections, and other bacterias and viruses, it’s true that you can contract Lyme from other insects: fleas, horseflies, mosquitoes, deerflies. Animals like horses, cows, and many rodents can carry Lyme as well. Studies have shown that Lyme spirochetes have appeared in various bodily fluids, such as breast milk, vaginal fluid, and semen, so it’s not enough just to protect yourself from ticks.2 You must be informed that Lyme can be transmitted through a variety of avenues, though tick bite is the method most commonly discussed.
The CDC and standard medical doctors look for a bullseye rash to diagnose Lyme disease, but not everyone gets that particular rash. In fact, less than a third of people may get a rash at all. Many who have Lyme do not even remember being bitten by anything or removing an embedded tick from their bodies.
So what’s the solution? If Lyme (and other diseases) can be transmitted from other insects, sexual partners, or breast milk, it seems like all you can do is trap yourself inside, covered in blankets and doused in DEET.
Along the same vein, many who have already contracted Lyme disease become afraid of activities they used to love, like hiking, camping, and cycling, for fear that they will experience another bite.
The good news is–you don’t have to spend your life indoors, as long as you are educated on how to prevent transmission of Lyme and remove ticks safely. There are actionable, safe steps you can take to keep all insects away using natural products like essential oils… just like there is a process to follow if you do find yourself with a tick bite this summer.
Steps to Take When a Tick is Embedded
- Remove the tick the right way.
The best way to detach an embedded tick is by using a tick removal device to spin and remove the tick. Avoid tweezers or your bare fingers. This means a certain degree of preparedness, since you don’t have to find an embedded tick and then have to go out and find a tick removal device to remove it. It’s best to have this already in your arsenal of natural medicine tools, just in case.
Recently, tick removal information has gone viral with bad information, suggesting to put peppermint oil or other liquids on the tick while it’s still attached to the skin. This aggravates the tick, potentially causing it to regurgitate and increasing the likelihood of the tick to infect you.
Also avoid pouring anything over the tick such as alcohol or other essential oils for the same reason.
- Optional: Save the tick for testing.
After the tick has been removed, save it in a bag if you wish to send it in for testing. Visit TickEncounter Resource Center for more information. On the website, you can follow instructions to submit a photo of the tick, and experts called TickSpotters will help you identify the risk of contracting Lyme based on the type of tick. They also partner with a lab at the University of Massachusetts, where you can physically mail in a Deer Tick, American Dog Tick, or Lonestar Tick. For $50, they will test for various strains of Borrelia and other co-infections, such as Babesia microti, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Ehrlichia chaffeenis.
- Essential oil skin protection.
Next, cover the tick sting/bite in an anti-pathogen essential oil, like oregano essential oil. Oregano oil is easy to find, and is protective against viruses, bacterial, parasites, fungus, and more. Additionally, many insects do not like the scent, so it can be helpful for prevention as an alternative to harmful ingredients in DEET and conventional bug sprays.
- Take homeopathics, immune-boosting supplements, and anti-pathogen herbs.
Homeopathics were first developed by Samuel Hahnemann under the belief in the concept that “like cures like.” Homeopathics are extremely small doses of a substance (usually plant-based or from other natural sources, like minerals or herbals) that, when used in higher doses, cause the same symptoms as you’re working to cure. The understanding is this awakens the body’s immune system and self-healing mechanisms, allowing the body to fight off a bug, pathogen, virus, or other ailment.
After a tick bite, homeopathics can be very useful, as can any supplement to boost your immune system and help your body fight off bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.
To learn about the recommended homeopathic, click below to download the PDF.
Click here to download the Tick Bite PDF
This homeopathic remedy typically comes in small pellets that dissolve in your mouth, but be sure to read the instructions for use from your specific brand. It’s also used to combat insect bite reactions such as minor swelling, itching, or pain. You can find it at a local health food store or online.
Essential Oil Prevention
If you’ve never had a tick bite yet, count your blessings–but that doesn’t make you immune to future exposures. In vector-borne illnesses like Lyme disease, Bartonella, Babesia, and many others, prevention and education are key to avoiding thousands of dollars in treatment and debilitating symptoms.
Most store-bought insect repellents contain N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide, also known as DEET, which has been shown in numerous studies to have harmful effects on the body, such as cognitive decline, respiratory issues, headaches, tremors, and more.
Though there are many suggestions for essential oils to prevent ticks and other insects from bothering you, the following are all backed by research studies and articles.
Lavender: Though lavender is most commonly used as a calming oil for anxiety and stress relief, it does have properties that many insects do not like. In recent studies, lavender essential oil has raised tick mortality rate and egg-laying failure. 3
Citronella: Citronella candles can also be helpful to deter various kinds of insects, but be sure the candles contain no DEET. Soy-based citronella candles with cotton wicks in a glass jar are your healthiest natural option.
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus and Lemongrass: Many researchers have noted natural insect repellents containing either oil of lemon eucalyptus or lemongrass oil to be comparable to DEET in repelling insects like ticks and mosquitoes. Interestingly, oil of lemon eucalyptus is the only natural repellent backed by the CDC, because studies have noted very successful repellent percentage, action, and duration.4 Lemon eucalyptus is a tree, and oil of lemon eucalyptus is made from oils from its leaves.
Thyme and Clove: In a 2017 study of eleven essential oils and their efficacy against ticks, clove came out on top for single oils, repelling 83% of ticks. Creeping thyme was a close second, repelling 82% of ticks. Combining thyme with citronella was the best blend solution, keeping 91% of ticks away.5
Pennyroyal: Many online sources recommend pennyroyal essential oil for tick prevention, which is an herb in the mint family, native to Asia and Europe. Historically, pennyroyal was used for digestive disorders, respiratory conditions, skin problems like eczema, and intestinal worms. It can also keep away other insects, like cockroaches. It is, however, toxic to pets, so best to avoid this oil if you plan to be around any animals.6
Protect Your Body
The best and easiest tip for tick prevention if you’re going to be spending time outdoors (especially in wooded areas with tall grass) is to wear a pair of socks that covers as much of your lower leg as possible, like a crew sock. It’s best to have long pants that are tucked into the socks, so none of your bare skin is exposed.
If that’s not possible, there are clothing lines coming out with tick-repellant spray built in, like Bug Be Wear. The company sprays their socks, shirts, and pants with permethrin, which is a chemical pesticide which many not only prevent bug bites, but possibly can kill mites, mosquitoes, or ticks. Do you own research, as some believe permethrin is harmless when used properly. Others believe it may act as a neurotoxin and possible could cause adverse reactions.
Permethrin has been used for decades in lice treatments, in products like Nix Cream Rinse. It paralyzes and kills the insects and their eggs, and is contraindicated for people with breathing issues, allergies, or asthma.
Protect Your Yard
Ticks prefer shady, wooded areas and high grass. Keeping your current lawn well-manicured and regularly mowed is another great way to make the yard less appealing to these Lyme-carrying insects. It’s also important to immediately get rid of piles of leaves, grass clippings, or other piles of organic plant matter, as they provide great hiding spaces for all kinds of insects. Additionally, be sure there’s no standing water in your yard, as puddles, rainwater, and non-draining landscaping can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other bothersome insects.
If you’re looking for a new home, a yard with plenty of sunlight is your best bet for at-home tick prevention. Look for a space with few trees and no overgrown shrubbery and landscaping. If you live in a warmer climate, a great solution is to create a drought-friendly yard, which make use of rocks, gravel, and plants like cactuses and succulents instead of grassy lawns and trees. This will help to keep ticks away, as well.
If your yard is connected to a very wooded area, make a 2-3 foot barrier with gravel or wood chips to separate your grass from thick trees nearby. This will make it less appealing for ticks to cross from the safety and comfort of the forest into the yard where you and your family are barbecuing.
Certain birds and bats consume ticks as a food source, so creating a bat box or providing plenty of bird feeders in your backyard is a great option, too.
Protect Your Family
Tick bite prevention is not a topic of conversation nearly enough in the Lyme disease community; the focus is merely on treatment and recovery. While it’s true that symptoms of Lyme and co-infections like Bartonella and Babesia can be absolutely debilitating and life-changing, it’s important to discuss prevention, as well, to educate others about how to avoid the disease. The best thing you can do to protect your family is to create a Tick Preparedness Kit ahead of time, before any issues arise. That way, if you do encounter a tick during a hike or camping trip, you’ll be ready and empowered, knowing you have what you need with you to deal with it the proper way.
Many of these items you can find inexpensively online.
-High-quality citronella candles
-Tick removal device
-Oregano essential oil
-Preventative essential oils to deter insects, like lemon eucalyptus
It’s a good idea to simply keep these items in a backpack or first aid kit that you take along with you anytime you’re going to be spending time outdoors, whether you live in a “tick-heavy” area or not. Though the CDC and conventional medicine only recognizes Lyme disease in certain states within the United States, ticks don’t know state or country lines. Preparedness is key.
The best way to avoid tick bites this season is to be educated in prevention and ready to naturally treat tick stings. If you do experience a tick attachment, it’s safer to assume that the tick has transmitted Lyme and other pathogens and treat yourself accordingly–with herbs and supplements. Though conventional doctors may recommend a course of antibiotics, that only attempts (often unsuccessfully) to cover bacteria transmitted by the tick. Ticks also carry parasites, viruses, and other pathogens, so a more comprehensive treatment plan is recommended.
Don’t be afraid of any outdoor activities, just be sure you’re thinking ahead and wearing long pants and socks, carrying removal devices and essential oils, and packing your emergency post-tick-bite kit.
If you already know you have Lyme (and co-infections) or if you’re just struggling with chronic health issues and haven’t been able to make much progress, our At-Home Lyme Disease Program can support you. It covers drainage, parasites, mold, teeth, pathogens, detox, EMFs, sleep, Lyme disease and much more, with easy-to-follow protocols and informative videos. There’s also a private Facebook group for support if you have questions. Read more about the At-Home Lyme Disease Program.
Whether you’re working with or without a practitioner, this is a great resource.
If you have a complicated case or need more support with a customized, personalized protocol, we also offer one-on-one coaching.
Have any additional tick bite prevention tips or resources? Leave them in the comments.
- Matthews, Melissa. “We’re Facing a Summer ‘Tick Explosion.” Here’s How to Keep Yourself Safe.” Runner’s World, Runner’s World, 28 June 2018. Web.
- Schmidt, B. L., E. Aberer, C. Stockenhuber, H. Klade, F. Breier, and A. Luger. 1995. Detection of Borrelia burgdorferi DNA by polymerase chain reaction in the urine and breast milk of patients with Lyme borreliosis. Diagnostic Microbiology and Infectious Disease. 21:121-128. PubMed. Web.
- Pirali-Kheirabadi, K. “Lavandula Angustifolia Essential Oil as a Novel and Promising Natural Candidate for Tick (Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) Annulatus) Control.” Experimental Parasitology, Elsevier, 28 Apr. 2010. Web.
- Yates, Johnnie. “Advice for Protection Against Mosquitoes and Ticks.” American Family Physician, AAFP, 1 June 2015. Web.
- Stefanidesova, K. “The Repellent Efficacy of Eleven Essential Oils against Adult Dermacentor Reticulatus Ticks.” Ticks and Tickborne Diseases, PubMed, 15 June 2017. Web.
- Yeom, HJ. “Insecticidal and Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitory Activities of Lamiaceae Plant Essential Oils and Their Major Components against Drosophila Suzukii (Diptera: Drosophilidae).” Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics, Elsevier, 15 June 2016. Web.