5 Natural Ways to Prevent Tick Bites

Wednesday Jul 31 | BY |
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Ticks carry a number of diseases, including Lyme disease, so be sure to protect yourself this summer.

Are you protected from ticks this summer? If you haven’t thought about it, now may be the time. Health officials agree that risk for illness from tick bites remains high in 2013.

In Indiana, reports show that excessive early spring rains led to excellent plant growth around the area, bringing more feeding deer out of the woods. Since deer carry ticks, that means that more ticks will be introduced over a wider area.

In Minnesota, the Department of Health reports that the despite dry conditions, risks of illness from ticks remains the same this year, with blacklegged ticks (deer ticks) carrying three main diseases—Lyme disease, human anaplasmosis, and babesiosis.

Experts from Oklahoma and Kansas State Universities note that over the last 10 years, tick populations have exploded. Warmer winters combined with an increase in white-tailed deer, the use of fewer insecticides, and the replanting of trees has resulted in a higher number of the pests.

“Without the deep, hard, cold winters,” says Michael W. Dryden, DVM, Ph.D., from the Kansas State University, “we don’t have the winter kill, and several ticks that were abundant in the South have moved North.” Wildlife also contribute to the spread of ticks, with migratory birds, rodents, coyotes, and others, along with the favorite host—the white-tailed deer—help tick populations to flourish.

The Problem with DEET

The standard recommendation for avoiding ticks is to use DEET-based repellants, but that can be dangerous to your health. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a study in the late 1980s on 143 National Park Service employees found that 25 percent reported health effects after applying DEET, including rashes, skin or mucous membrane irritation, numb or burning lips, dizziness, diorientation, and difficulty concentrating. Headache and nausea were also reported.

A more recent 2009 animal study conducted by the Institute of Development Research in France found that DEET can interfere with the activity of enzymes vital to the nervous system. In fact, the researchers noted that the chemical works in the same way as paralyzing nerve gases used in warfare.

“These findings question the safety of DEET, particularly in combination with other chemicals,” said researcher Vincent Corbel, “and they highlight the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to the development of safer insect repellants for use in public health.”

General Guidelines First

As a reminder, there are some general guidelines for protecting yourself and your family from tick bites. These include:

  • Habitat: Be aware that ticks live in wooded, grassy, and brushy areas. They like moist, humid environments. Avoid these types of areas, or be sure that you protect yourself when you go into them.
  • Direction: Walk in the center of trails to avoid contact with ticks.
  • Clothes: Wear light-colored clothing with long sleeves and pants, and tuck your pants into your socks. When you return to the house, immediately wash clothing and put into a dryer set on high heat.
  • Hair: Cover, braid, or tie up long hair, and consider wearing a hat.
  • Body: Shower immediately after being out in tick-friendly areas, and check your body for ticks. Remember to look in hidden areas like under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, on the back of the knees, in and around the hair, between the legs and around the waist.

If you do find a tick attached to you, remove it using a pair of tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible, and pull upward with a steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the area with soap and warm water. If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks, see your doctor and tell him about the bite.

Natural Ways to Repel Ticks

When trying to keep yourself free of ticks this summer, you may want to consider your yard first, and make sure it isn’t inviting the pests in. Remove leaf litter and clear tall grasses and shrubs around the home. Use wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to keep ticks away from lawns, play areas, and recreational areas.

If you’re headed out hiking, try these natural repellant ideas:

  1. Citrus repellant: Boil citrus peels (orange, lime, lemon) in water, let cool, and apply to skin. The easiest way is to put the solution in a spray bottle. Take with you and reapply as needed.
  2. Other oils: Mix any of the following with a carrier oil like almond oil to create a natural repellant: rosemary, geranium, basil, cedar, cinnamon, lemon, lavender, and pennyroyal. Mix three oils maximum with pure almond oil and apply to skin.
  3. Repel Plant Based Lemon Eucalyptus: This natural insect repellant got high marks from Consumer Reports for repelling mosquitoes and ticks. There are other natural solutions out there if you’d rather not make your own—Lakon Herbals’ Bygone Bugz is another example, along with Quantum Herbal Products’ natural tick repellant spray.
  4. Soap repellant: Try mixing 10-15 drops of essential oils (lemon balm, pennyroyal, lavender, or rose geranium) with one ounce of liquid soap—wash in the solution before going outdoors.
  5. Garlic pills: Ticks don’t like the smell, so enjoy a nice Greek or Italian meal, or consider taking odorless garlic pills before going out.

For more information on healing Lyme disease, see:

Do you have other ideas for natural tick repellant? Please share with our readers.

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Jesse Hawila, “The uptick in ticks of 2013,” Wane-TV, June 5, 2013, http://www.wane.com/dpp/news/local/the-uptick-in-ticks-of-2013.

Minnesota Department of Health, “Risk of illness from tick bites remains high in 2013,” Press Publications, June 20, 2013, http://www.presspubs.com/kanabec/news/article_82869adc-d9b7-11e2-a4c0-0019bb2963f4.html.

Marie Rosenthal, “Tick Populations to Explode in 2013,” Veterinary Practice News, March 28, 2013, http://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/vet-cover-stories/tick-populations-to-explode.aspx.

Bill Hendrick, “Consumer Reports Health Tests the Ability of Bug Repellants to Keep Insects at Bay,” WebMD, May 25, 2010, http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/news/20100525/6-insect-repellents-get-high-marks.

Remy Melina, “Is Bug Spray Dangerous?” LiveScience, July 4, 2010, http://www.livescience.com/6687-bug-spray-dangerous.html.

“Deet bug repellant ‘toxic worry,’” BBC News, August 5, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8182052.stm.

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story, a northwest-based writer, editor, and ghostwriter, has been creating non-fiction materials for individuals, corporations, and commercial magazines for over 17 years. She specializes in the health and wellness field, where she writes and ghostwrites books, e-books, blogs, magazine articles, and more.

Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” was released with Jupiter Gardens Press in September 2015. Her literary novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” is forthcoming in spring 2016 from Dzanc Books. She lives in Idaho. www.colleenmstory.com

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