Preventing Lyme Disease in Your Family

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For parents with kids that play in tick infested areas
by Penelope Melas /Co-founder of the Two Frogs Healing Center

I thought my daughters were safe and so I let my guard down
At a Memorial Day picnic, my two daughters were in a suburban Baltimore backyard picking strawberries. With no woods nearby, I thought I had no reason to worry about ticks. I was wrong.

I am secretly petrified of my kids getting Lyme disease
I have seen what happens to people with Lyme disease who get sicker and sicker when their doctor can’t figure out what is wrong. I would wrap my kids up in plastic every time they went outside if that would protect them. Unfortunately, ticks can be found just about anywhere outdoors besides the woods: backyards, playgrounds, piles of mulch, or around stone walls. My daughter had picked up a nasty surprise at a friend’s house.

A few hours later, one of my daughters came to me holding a tick in her hand
Later that evening, my eldest daughter showed me a very tiny speck that she had pulled off of her leg. It was hard to see what it was. So, we pulled out her microscope. I felt anxiety in my stomach when I saw it was a tiny tick. There was a red raised bump where she had pulled it off of her leg. Unfortunately, ticks can carry over sixty different diseases. I put it in a sealed plastic container and sent it to get tested for different diseases that ticks can carry.

We sent the tick for testing at a specialty laboratory called Clongen Labs
I spent the next few days worrying about what diseases the tick was carrying. My mind jumped from worrying about Lyme disease or other infections. Much to my relief, we got the test results back in a few days. When I opened the email from Clongen Labs, my worst fear came true.

The tick test came back positive for a bacterial infection called Bartonella
In addition to Lyme disease, Bartonella is another infection that ticks also carry. Bartonella bacteria can cause fatigue, mental symptoms, headaches, swollen glands, arthritis, seizures, neurological disorders, and aches and pains that are similar to Lyme disease.

What can you do to protect your family against Lyme disease?

Follow these four steps to help keep your family safe for the coming tick season

1. Spray your family, pets, and yourself down with a good tick spray
Unfortunately, DEET only works as a tick repellant in very high concentrations. Studies have shown that the ticks continue to crawl all over clothes covered in low concentrations of DEET. Tick researchers recommend permethrin as a more effective repellent. Permethrin is an insecticide that comes from a chemical found in the chrysanthemum family. It is made less effective by the oils on our skin, so Permethrin is usually applied on clothes. Once it is on clothing, it becomes odorless and can last for several weeks with a one application. Once ticks come into contact with the chemical, most will curl up and fall off. With prolonged exposure to this chemical, the ticks will be killed.

A low-toxic tick repellant that I use is called picaridin. You can get it in many insect repellent products online or in outdoor stores. I also recommend getting in an eight hour spray version. Ticks are also easier to spot on light colored clothing. A hat can protect your kid’s head from ticks on tall grass. Frontline can help protect your pets.

2. Do regular tick checks
A convenient time to check for ticks is right before kids get into the bath. Since ticks have been found hidden in the hair on the head, I recommend running your fingertips through scalp to feel for small bumps. Feel for bumps as small as the period at the end of this sentence. You may need to look at what you find under a magnifying glass or a microscope to determine if it is a tick.

Once you get kids into the bath, I recommend using a loofah sponge to lightly scrub the skin. This can help remove small ticks that have not attached yet.

3. Protect your house from ticks
Ticks are most active in the spring through the fall. Fortunately, they will dry out and die if they cannot find a moist habitat. Spraying insecticide or a natural oil like Neem can kill ticks living around your house. Keeping your lawn trimmed short and removing grass clippings and dead leaves reduces moist habitats where ticks can hide. Placing diatomaceous earth on your lawn or dessicants like boric acid in and around stone walls, sheds, or barns where mice or chipmunks live can also help to reduce tick populations. Putting up deer fencing can prevent deer from dropping ticks in your yard.

4. Talk to your kid’s school to educate them on protecting kids against Lyme disease
If your kid’s school is near a wooded area, then talk with the facilities manager about spraying the grounds where kids play. Or talk about putting up deer fencing up around high traffic areas. Whether you have woods near your house or not, there are several things you can do to protect yourself. I learned this lesson the hard way when I thought my daughter was in a safe backyard. The best way to protect your family against Lyme disease is prevention.

– Penelope

1. A plain-language introduction to tick-borne diseases. The Basics. Fifth Edition April 2007. Written by Douglas W. Fearn. Published by the Lyme Disease Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Inc.
2. Semmler M, Abdel-Ghaffar F, Al-Rasheid KA, Mehlhorn H. Comparison of the tick repellent efficacy of chemical and biological products originating from Europe and the USA. Parasitol Res. 2011 Apr;108(4) pp. 899-904.
3. Schmahl G, Al-Rasheid KA, Abdel-Ghaffar F, Klimpel S, Mehlhorn H. The efficacy of neem seed extracts (Tre-san, MiteStop) on a broad spectrum of pests and parasites. Parasitol Res. 2010 Jul;107(2) pp. 261-9.

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