Enjoying the great outdoors to see the leaves change and go on a hike makes you more susceptible to tick bites. New studies show more Lyme disease–carrying ticks are surviving the winter and their active season for spreading disease lasts longer. “With milder winters, ticks emerge earlier and remain active later into the fall,” notes Theresa M. Crimmins, PhD, a research professor at the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Arizona. In fact, a recent study of black-legged ticks shows nearly 80 percent of infected critters survive the winter. Says Crimmins, “An extended tick season means greater potential to come into contact with disease-carrying ticks and potentially become infected.”
It’s important to protect yourself from the pests, because Lyme disease can trigger everything from flu-like symptoms to arthritis, adds Bill Rawls, MD, author of Unlocking Lyme (Buy from Amazon, $14.95). Luckily, there are simple tips for how to prevent Lyme disease which can help you stay safe this fall and winter!
Reaching for garlic is the best daily to-do.
A daily dose of the herb could help make you Lyme-proof. The reason? Garlic contains a broad spectrum of natural chemical defenses that attack Lyme in various ways. Not only does garlic enhance your immune system to kill the bacteria that causes Lyme, it also wards off ticks to help you avoid getting bitten in the first place, says Dr. Rawls. “When you ingest garlic, it creates an aura of good microbes on your skin — a smell that repels ticks. I’ve been taking garlic extract for years and I haven’t been bitten yet.” His advice: Take 180 to 1,200 milligrams of stabilized garlic two to three times daily. One to try: 21st Century Standardized Garlic Extract (Buy from iHerb.com, $7.35).
Trying a cedar spritz is the best before-going-out strategy.
Headed out for a hike? To create a “force field” proven to repel ticks, try Cedarcide (at Walmart), says physician Amy Offutt, MD. “It contains cedar essential oil, which kills ticks and is safe to use on skin.” In fact, Johns Hopkins research shows that essential oils like thyme, cypress, and juniper are potent tick-repellents and work well at the nymph stage, which is key now, when ticks are emerging.
To make your own mix, combine 1⁄3 cup of distilled water, 1⁄4 cup of witch hazel, and 30 drops of cedar, thyme, cypress, or juniper essential oil in a spray bottle. Says Darin Ingels, ND, author of The Lyme Solution (Buy from Amazon, $15.25): “Spray low on your body since ticks don’t jump — they crawl upward.”
Take 6 is the best back-at-home plan.
When you return from time outdoors, throw your clothes in the dryer for six minutes on high heat to kill ticks that may have hitched a ride home, says Alexis Chesney, ND, author of Preventing Lyme and Other Tick-Borne Diseases (Buy from Amazon, $14.45).
To check your skin, look under your waistband and bra, says Thomas Mather, PhD, director of the University of Rhode Island’s Tick Encounter Resource Center. “Ticks can get stuck in these tight spots.” If you see one, remove it with tweezers. Clean the bite and your hands with rubbing alcohol and pop the tick in a zip-top plastic bag (don’t crush it, as that may release toxins). Call your doctor if you experience swelling around the bite or flu-like symptoms.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.
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