While we all love soaking up sunshine and nature, our outdoor pursuits can expose us to ticks and the dangerous Lyme disease they transmit. Experts have warned that cases of Lyme disease — which causes fever, rashes, headaches, joint pain, and fatigue — have doubled in the past three decades. But before you stress out about your walk in the woods, read these four tips. Protecting yourself is easy!
Spritz on cedar
DEET repels ticks but can trigger skin irritation, nausea, and dizziness. Luckily, a USDA study found a cedar oil compound (cedrol) effectively killed nymphs, the immature ticks most likely to transmit Lyme. The DIY repellent that Darin Ingels, ND, author of The Lyme Solution, recommends: Mix 30 drops of cedar oil, ⅓ cup of distilled water, and ¼ cup of witch hazel in a spray bottle. Or try Cedarcide ($34.99, from Amazon).
Go for garlic
Swedish research into using garlic as a tick repellent suggests a daily dose of the herb curbs your odds of being bitten. Garlic creates an aura of good microbes on skin — a smell that repels ticks, says Bill Rawls, MD, author of Unlocking Lyme. “I’ve been taking garlic extract for years, and I haven’t been bitten yet.” His advice: Take up to 1,200 milligrams of stabilized garlic two to three times daily. Try: 21st Century Garlic Extract ($7 for 60 tablets, from Amazon).
Showering within two hours of being outside cuts the odds of contracting Lyme by 58 percent, Yale scientists say. It washes off ticks that haven’t latched on to skin and lets you spot any that have. Tip: Check snug areas like the navel, armpits, and behind the ears.
Removing latched-on ticks within 36 hours lowers your risk of infection. But crushing them can release bacteria. The method that proved 76 percent more effective in a Turkish study: Grasping the tick with tweezers as close to where it’s attached as possible, then pulling straight up using steady pressure. Swab skin with rubbing alcohol; wash hands.
Lyme disease typically develops in three to 30 days after a tick bite. So, if you have symptoms such as skin rash, headache, fever, or joint pain, talk to your doctor about testing. Stay safe out there!
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A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.