Nature is our happy place.
It calms our minds and soothes our hearts, and we do our best to get out and in it every day that we can. Our Wisconsin farm is 40-some acres of prairie, pasture, and woods, and there is hardly an inch that we haven’t explored.
I’ve been asked time and again how we can feel comfortable heading out into the tall grass and underbrush living in a region with such a high incident of Lyme Disease, plus our own family history of tick bites and Lyme Disease.
I can’t let the fear win. Not when the woods, when life, when childhood are waiting.
So we’ve dialed in our tick prevention game. That was the only reasonable answer we could devise. Since I wrote the post that is linked above, we’ve completely changed the way we approach tick season from a practical standpoint.
And it’s working.
Here is what we do these days to prevent tick bites and to keep our family safe and healthy, while we get out there and enjoy all that nature has to offer. Without fear, without anxiety, without reservation.
Five simple steps to prevent tick bites
Even before mosquito season, we consistently spray our skin and clothes with our LüSa Organics rose geranium insect repellent. I formulate Shoo with ticks in mind, and it never ceases to amaze me. This is our first – and perhaps most important – line of defense. We use it from the time the snow melts until the first snow falls the next winter. Because unlike mosquitoes, ticks are active for all but the coldest season.
We bring a bottle of Shoo along whenever we go out, and if we’re outside for more than an hour or so we reapply. I also spray it on our dog when he heads out to romp.
2. Appropriate clothing
Light colors make it easier to see ticks before they get to your skin and have a chance to attach. Choose long pants, socks, and closed toed shoes. We pull hair back and wear hats as well. Bonus points for long sleeves.
3. Tuck in your clothes
Ticks crawl up to get to the skin, and by keeping tucked in they have fewer entry points. Tuck shirts into pants and pants into socks. It’s not the height of fashion, but it’s effective tick prevention.
4. Tick checks & laundry procedures
Back home after an adventure, we do tick checks, slowly and carefully looking over each other’s head’s and bodies for any interlopers. Then we each take a quick shower, being sure to shampoo well.
Clothes go straight into the laundry, and things that can’t be laundered (hand knits or other wool, for example) are checked for burrs; then they go into the dryer on hot for 10 minutes to kill any ticks before coming back upstairs. If woolens are wet line dry first, then throw into the dryer.
5. Sulphur Protocol
This last one is a little weird. But since we first gave the “sulphur protocol” a try three years ago we’ve had almost no tick bites. Really. We went from five bites for Lupine alone by mid April one year, to a single bite the whole next year. Yes, one bite is still one too many, but it’s certainly an improvement. (Afflinks follow.)
The protocol is as follows:
Week 1: Take 1/8 teaspoon of powdered sulphur (we use this kind) daily.
We stir it into water with a bit of Magnesium Calm instead of the molasses recommended in the link above (for flavor, and because we supplement with magnesium daily anyway).
Week 2: Take above dose every other day.
Week 3: above dose every third day.
Week 4: Take above dose once per week.
Week 5 through Autumn: Take above dose monthly.
(We originally found the sulphur protocol here.) I don’t know why it works, but I know that it seems to be working well for us, so I’m keeping with it!
What if you are bitten?
No protocol is fool-proof. We sometimes forget our bug spray, or forget to reapply, or miss a tick during a tick-check. In the rare event that a tick does become attached, stay calm and follow this simple course of action:
First, use a tick remover to gently lift off the tick (we use this type). Avoid squeezing or pulling.
Second, support your immune system response. For our family we choose to take ledum 30C and support our immune systems with elderberry and astragalus tinctures. What is right for your family may be different, but this is our approach.
Third, tend to the bite site. While still in the field we apply a fresh plantain poultice, and back home we keep the skin moisturized and happy with this favorite balm.
What about antibiotics?
Some people treat with antibiotics after each and every tick bite. Others treat only when Lyme symptoms are present. Still others don’t use antibiotics at all. Educate yourself to the benefits and drawbacks of each approach, and make your own best, well-informed decision.
What are the symptoms?
Whether or not you are aware of having been bitten, I believe it’s a good idea to watch for signs of Lyme Disease in all members of your family. Symptoms are widely varied, and include brain fog, aching joints, headaches, on-and-off fevers, and flu-like symptoms. I personally develop deep fatigue, digestive pain, word-finding problems, and spelling issues. Everyone is different. Know your body and listen when something feels off. For many people symptoms come and go. This checklist is a great place to start when your evaluating symptoms.
What about the bullseye?
Not everyone presents a bullseye rash when contracting Lyme Disease, so don’t let its absence lead you to believe that your symptoms are not Lyme.
If you are concerned about Lyme Disease in your family, I can’t say enough about the importance of finding a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor. This is one resource for finding a LLMD, but there are literate doctors who are not on the list.
All of that said, by following the protocol above ticks have become a rare problem indeed for our family. Give the five steps a try, and report back with your experience!
What are your family’s tricks for keeping the ticks at bay?