As the summer season rolls around, incidences of Lyme disease increase dramatically. Summer is prime tick season, where a person’s chances of getting bitten are at their highest. Ticks are the only known spreaders of Lyme disease, a controversial disorder that finds itself in somewhat of a grey area when it comes to medical legitimacy. The acute form of the disorder is well recognised, but the chronic form, where symptoms are disparate and variable, is not yet officially recognised as a true disorder. This is despite thousands upon thousands of people coming forward with similar symptoms long after the acute stage of the disease has passed.
This controversy makes treatment of the disease very difficult, although companies like Make Well continue to research and attempt to counteract Lyme with their range of natural supplements designed to support its treatment. Despite these efforts, chronic Lyme remains a very tough disease to cure. One way to prevent either form of Lyme disease is to protect yourself from ticks and their bites. So as the summer hits, what are the best ways to defend against these dangerous parasites?
1. Wear Long Clothing
Ticks require bare skin to be able to bite. Though many of us can’t wait to ditch the jeans and throw on a pair of shorts in the summer, exposed legs can be one of the most inviting places for a tick to latch on to. If you’re going for a walk in woody or grassy areas, do your best to cover up as best you can. Although it might not be the most fashionable look for the summer season, tucking your trouser legs into your socks can be a very wise move. It’s also not a bad idea to wear a hat of some kind to protect your head. More clothing during the hot summer is the last thing anyone wants to wear, but this simple tactic can help you protect yourself from ticks.
2. Avoid Wooded Areas
Ticks love the woods. They also love grassy, overgrown areas. They can be found both within the grass and on the bark of trees. However, contrary to popular opinion, ticks cannot jump. They attach themselves to their hosts using a technique known as ‘questing’. This involves them positioning themselves on the very edge of something like a blade of grass and extending their front legs. They will wait in this position until they can hook onto something with their tiny claws. Therefore, physical contact is required with the tick in order for it to successfully attach itself. Avoiding overgrown areas can greatly reduce your chances of this happening.
3. Check Your Pets (and Avoid Wildlife)
It’s not just humans who are susceptible to tick bites. They will also happily latch on to a dog, cat or any warm-blooded creature who happens to cross their path. Contact with your dog or cat can then bring ticks into your home, leading to human bites. If you have a dog, try to take it for walks that avoid excessively grassy or woody areas. Obviously, four-legged animals are closer to the ground than humans, giving them a higher chance of coming into contact with questing ticks. Check your pets thoroughly when they come inside, and try to catch and dispose of any ticks then and there.
4. Check Yourself Thoroughly
It’s also important to check yourself thoroughly when you come in from the outdoors. Ticks won’t just stay in the place that they first latch on to a host; they will often travel across the body and search out dark or sheltered spots to bite down on. So just checking your exposed skin isn’t enough – the ticks could easily be hiding somewhere else on your body. The exact rate of transmission of Lyme disease is not accurately known. The CDC estimates that in most cases, it takes 36–48 hours for a tick to transmit Lyme disease to its host. Other experts, however, think that the rate of transmission is much faster. Either way, getting the ticks off your body as soon as possible is critical. Also be on the lookout for the distinctive bullseye rash, a prime indicator of acute Lyme disease. The rash takes the form of a red bullseye, with one circle surrounding the second, and forms very soon after Lyme transmission. It’s important to remember that acute Lyme is treatable with antibiotics, so if it is caught in these early stages, the chance of recovery is high. If the disease is missed and left to mutate into the chronic manifestation, recovery, and indeed diagnosis, will be a much tougher road.
5. Use a Pesticide
There are some chemical ways to repel ticks on both skin and clothing, using pesticides. Any product that contains permethrin is good to douse your clothes in, and it can remain effective through several washes. For those who work outdoors or spend much of their day outside, pre-treated clothing is available. There are also a number of insect repellents that have been vetted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as safe to use on adults and children. Remember to always follow the instructions when applying these products. Helpfully, the EPA provides a search tool on its website, which can help you find the right repellent for you and your family.
Stopping Lyme disease at its source is the easiest way to avoid a potentially long and protracted battle with this debilitating disorder, so be sure to keep these tips in mind and protect yourself from ticks this summer.