A few years ago I found myself with a loved one sitting in the exam room of a Lyme disease specialist. It was unsettling news, the specialist thought my loved one needed to be tested for Lyme disease. We were incredulous, there had never been a bulls-eye rash. There were no memories of a tick bite. That’s when we found out most people with Lyme disease never develop the most well known symptom. The costly test had to be sent to California and it would take a while before the results were back. In the meantime, we began researching the disease trying to see if the symptoms matched what we were reading. During our course of research we came across the movie, Under Our Skin. It was enlightening and also terrifying. So many lives changed by a moment in time. We got the results back, they were negative. We were, of course, thankful for the negative result but also moved forward with a heightened awareness of the possibilities a small bite may bring.
As if Lyme disease itself was not enough, there are also other risks from a tick bite. The Powassan virus originated in Ontario but according to the CDC there have been 75 cases reported in the Midwest and northeast US over the past 10 years. The main symptoms are fever and headache but neurological symptoms may also develop. The virus can lead to encephalitis and meningitis. Sadly, a small percentage of cases lead to death.
Lyme disease and the Powassan virus are two important reasons to exercise caution when spending time outdoors, especially in wooded areas. Last season’s warm winter makes it likely that there will be a greater population of ticks. Dressing appropriately is imperative. Wear long sleeves and pants when hiking or walking through the forest. A hat is also a good idea to keep ticks from hair where they could easily hide. Ticks don’t jump, they crawl. They might eventually end up on your head but they always start on your feet or ankles. Focusing on keeping your feet and ankles covered is a good practice. Additionally, tick repellents will help. Essential oils may help to repel them because ticks have a great sense of smell. By wearing scents they don’t like this can help to keep them from crawling on you. Many people are interested in limiting their exposure to chemicals and looking for natural remedies. However, it’s important to remember that natural repellents will need to be applied more often. So remember to take your homemade repellents with you when going on your outdoor adventures.
If you want to make your own tick spray, using a hydrosol as a base is a good place to start. This will give you an added layer of protection from the fragrance of the hydrosol. Catnip hydrosol would be one of the best choices but peppermint, lavender, or geranium hydrosols can also be used if you need a substitute. Rose Geranium is an essential oil known to have a scent ticks don’t like. Cedarwood, Lavender, Eucalyptus, Citronella, and Lemongrass are other essential oils that can be used in a tick repellent blend. Please use caution if you decide to use Lemongrass because it can attract bees. As always, it is important to use a safe dilution depending on age and health. These recommendations are for humans only. Do not use on your pets. If you have any questions, let us know in the comments.
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