Dr. Sonya Nobbe, ND
KFL&A Public Health reports that in 2013, 23% of the ticks brought in for testing were positive for B. Burgdorferi, the infectious agent of Lyme disease. Our region is considered high risk for Lyme disease. Additional infections carried by ticks (collectively known as Lyme co-infections), were not evaluated. Please educate yourself, friends, and family members about tick-bite prevention and treatment. I’ve thoroughly researched and summarized some guidelines to keep in mind this season:
1. Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved clothing with pants tucked into socks, when outdoors in tall grasses and wooded areas so that ticks are more visible.
2. A product containing 30% DEET is officially recommended for adults. For children younger than 12 years, Health Canada recommends using a product with 10% DEET. However, the repelling effects at this concentration may only last for 1 to 2 hours. Alternate approved chemicals for children or sensitive individuals include products with Icaridin (e.g. Avon Skin So Soft, some MEC and OFF! brand products).
3. Non-approved but well researched natural repellants include Lemon Eucalyptus oil (Eucalyptus citriodora), Labrador tea oil (Rhododendron tomentosum), Juniper (Juniperus virginia), and Marjoram (Origanum majorana). These can be mixed in a ratio of 12 parts pure grain alcohol (95% if available), to 1 part oil combination, and applied liberally with a dark glass spritzer bottle over clothing.
4. Do not apply sunscreen and insect repellent together. It reduces their effectiveness and/or can increase the skin’s absorption of harmful chemicals.
5. Do tick checks every time you come in from outside. Be sure to check pets and children’s toys (e.g. blankets). Some people find that going over their clothing with a lint roller is helpful, or taking a shower to wash off unattached ticks.
6. If you find a tick attached to your skin, gently remove it straight out with a pair of tweezers, by the head and as close to the skin as possible without squeezing or twisting its body.
7. KFL&A public health no longer accepts ticks for testing. Dispose of the tick.
8. Apply an anti-septic to the bite area, or concentrated Andrographis tincture. Additionally applying a bit of bentonite clay to the area for 12 to 24 hours may help to prevent infection.
9. If you use homeopathy, take 3 pellets of Ledum daily for 3 days.
10. Take a photo of the bite area to help you recall the location of the bite and date, should a rash or other symptom appear in the future.
11. Public Health advises that infection will not occur if you remove the tick within 24 hours. This is likely true for the agent that causes Lyme disease, but it is unlikely true for some of the co-infections. Please treat every tick bite regardless of how long the tick was attached. Your ND may prescribe antimicrobial and immune-supportive botanicals.
12. If you did contract the Lyme bacteria, testing won’t be positive for at least 4 weeks. Further, technology available for testing is inadequate and test results can be inaccurate. A diagnosis must be made clinically (i.e. based on symptoms). This is another reason why prevention is imperative.
13. Your best defense is always your immune system. A single-pronged strategy that attempts to kill the harmful microbe can result in relapse up to 35% of the time. Tick-borne infectious agents have perfected their survival strategies over millennia and they’re very skilled at evading direct pharmaceutical approaches. It’s up to our immune system to match the evolutionary pressure and maintain optimal balance.
Evaluating and treating your entire immune system and its relationship to other systems in your body, is where integrative medicine excels. Work with a knowledgeable health practitioner to identify where your immune system requires support for strength and balance.