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Thursday, June 14, 2012

What to Do About Ticks, Tick Bites, and Lyme Disease

                   The life cycle of three ticks: Blacklegged Tick, Lone Star Tick, and Dog Tick. (5)

Here in Maryland, summer is upon us in early June. For us here in the Midatlantic, it means heat, humidity, long, sunny days, and the inevitable return of tick bites if you enjoy the outdoors like I do. Ticks are a concern for me because I don’t like being bitten by them and, most importantly, the diseases that they can spread to humans. Here we have four species of ticks: Deer Tick, Dog Tick (or Wood Tick), Brown Dog Tick, and Lone Star Tick. Dog Ticks and Lone Star Ticks can spread Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Deer Ticks and Lone Star Ticks can spread Lyme disease. (1) Lyme disease has everyone concerned since it is hard to see the very tiny Deer Ticks, and it may sometimes be difficult to diagnose this serious disease. 

Fortunately, there are some helpful measures people can take to prevent getting bit or getting any diseases. 

1) Limit one’s activity in natural areas during the warmer months. If you do go outside, try to go to areas where ticks are less common, often where deer are not common. 

2) Don’t walk through meadows or areas of tall grass or other plants. Walk along maintained trails and mown grass only. 

3) Dress appropriately with long, white colored clothing. This makes it easier to spot ticks. Also, tuck your pants into your socks to prevent ticks from crawling up your legs. If it is too hot to wear long pants and long sleeve shirts, then try exercising outside during the cooler morning hours and don’t’ visit natural areas the rest of the day. (1) 

4) Be careful even when visiting any garden, since ticks can be anywhere that there are mammals, birds, and plants. If you have ticks on your property, you can mow pathways of where you would like to walk, and keep bird feeders clean and away from your house since they may attract rodents. (1) 

5) I don’t recommend using toxic insect repellents with DEET, a toxic chemical. Luckily, there are several nontoxic insect repellents available today that may be applied preferably to your clothing and not your skin, since anything applied to the skin is taken in by your body. You may apply a nontoxic insect repellent before going out if you visit natural areas. 

6) Have everyone in your group perform a tick check on each other before driving home and upon arriving at home. It is best to immediately place your clothes in the dryer on hot for one hour (which is the only way to kill the ticks), and to take a shower, checking your body for ticks. Simply washing your clothes does not kill ticks. (1) 

7) If you do find a tick on your body remove it immediately by gently pulling on it with tweezers, not your fingers. Try to remove the whole body including the mouth parts. Sometimes, I place a cotton round with alcohol over the tick to kill it first, which allows for easier removal. To clean the wound, place an antibacterial ointment, like rubbing alcohol, over the bite area. (2) Save the tick in a plastic bag for later identification if necessary. (1) 

8) The best way to prevent serious harm from tick bites is to strengthen you immune system ones daily basis, don’t just wait until you get bit by a tick. Science has proven that eating a plant based diet and superfoods, superherbs, tree mushrooms are crucial to a healthier, longer living body that better withstands infections and diseases. These superherbs and dietary choice may be taken consistently in order to build up the immune system and they are recommended for tick bites and Lyme disease as well: Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum), Cat’s Claw, Sarsaparilla, Astralagus, low sugar diet (no or very low amounts of fruit, sugar, honey, sweeteners, etc.), blue green algae, marine phytoplankton, and medicinal mushrooms: Chaga, Reishi, Cordyceps, Chaitake, and Maitake. For sources of these superherbs, see below. If you are bitten and have the symptoms of Lyme disease, it is best to see a health care professional. They will usually prescribed antibiotics to treat it. The earlier it is detected and the sooner you are treated, the better and faster you will recover. If you must take antibiotics, I recommend taking probiotics in order to repopulate your gut with beneficial bacteria. It is helpful to take the probiotics not at the same time as the antibiotics so they both can work independently. 

9) Instituting policies that allow predators, such as wolves, coyotes, and mountain lions, to increase their populations in natural areas would reduce the deer and tick population. Other options, like controlled hunts of deer populations will help to reduce tick populations as well. 

10) If you don’t want to ever get bitten by ticks you can choose to not go to natural areas or gardens, but this would make life rather dull. Or, you can choose to visit natural areas where Lyme disease is rare or does not exist. There are maps available online that shows areas of Lyme disease by state. See here: http://www.wildflorida.com/wildlife/insects/Deer_Tick.php or here http://www.aldf.com/RiskMap.shtml (3, 4) 
                    National Lyme disease risk map. (3)

11) Of course, the ultimate option is to move to another state or country where Lyme disease or ticks do not exist or are very rare. In the US, the Rocky Mountain states do not have Lyme disease. For instance, when I lived in southern California I visited natural areas many times and never found any ticks on my body. This seems to indicate that areas of dryness with little rainfall, like deserts, do not have ticks as much as areas with higher rainfall. (3, 4) 

The lesson here is that we humans helped create this problem of Lyme disease becoming so rampant. By eliminating many of the predator species and creating suburbs we have allowed for an explosion in the mammalian populations. There are even some who believe that Lyme disease is a human made pathogen, an escaped GMO from a chemical plant across the river from Lyme, Connecticut. However, it is ultimately up to us to decide to how to deal with it. There are many options that will help as recommended in this article. It is much more preferable to make the effort to prevent getting bit by a tick or getting a disease, rather than dealing with the consequences. Happy camping! 

Superherbs Source: 

Article Sources: 

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory: What About Ticks?: (2) http://science-ed.pnnl.gov/pals/resource/cards/ticks.stm 

Wild Florida Ecotravel Guide: Deer Tick or Black Legged Tick (Map): (3) http://www.wildflorida.com/wildlife/insects/Deer_Tick.php 

American Lyme Disease Foundation (Map): (4) 
http://www.aldf.com/RiskMap.shtml

EmedicineHealth: Ticks: Figure 1: The life cycle of ticks Source: CDC: (5) http://www.emedicinehealth.com/ticks/article_em.htm

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7 comments:

Liza Shayari said...

Interesting story...and comments. I wonder if maybe the allergic reaction isn't directly from the meat, but the hormones/antibiotics, or other unnatural items that the livestock were fed?
I know in certain areas they are treated with pesticides. If the pesticide has a mechanism that attacks the tick, then we may have an answer.

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What to Do About Ticks, Tick Bites, and Lyme Disease

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