Lyme disease gets its name from a small town in Connecticut where it was first recognized in 1989, although studies have indicated that it has actually been around for centuries. It is carried by the black legged tick, more commonly known as the deer tick, since deer are one of the main carriers. Its detection is very difficult and not widely acknowledged by professionals. Even the doctors don’t agree as to what constitutes Lyme disease, since it mirrors a wide variety of other conditions and problems. In animals, symptoms can include everything from painful lameness and stiffness to fever, depression, and sometimes swollen lymph nodes. If left untreated, the heart, kidneys and nervous system can also become affected. Current treatment for both people and animals involves long periods of antibiotics, a controversial approach since it can lead to the overuse of these medications in human and animal populations as a whole.
Experts are promoting another, even more controversial way to control Lyme disease, by killing the deer. In a small main town of Monhegan Island, the townsfolk voted to hire a professional to kill off all the local deer! This type of misguided enthusiasm will not work because the black legged tick also hosts other animals such as dogs, cats, rodents and people – most animals that have blood, in fact. Killing off deer will not deter tick populations; it will only drive them to look for new hosts.
Prevention is the best approach
Tick season usually occurs right after the first spring rains when the earth is warm at night. It can last through the summer and into the fall. The best way to prevent Lyme disease in yourself or your animal is to take the following protective steps.
1. When out walking with your dog, or while on a camping trip, protect yourself by wearing long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and long cotton socks. Tie your pant legs with a string or rubber band to prevent ticks from climbing up your pant legs. It’s also a good idea to wear light-colored clothing, as darker hues are more attractive to ticks. After a walk, thoroughly check yourself and your dog for any ticks.
2. Use natural repellents to keep ticks off yourself and your dog.
Natural castile peppermint soap: wash your clothing in it, or spritz your clothes and your dog’s coat with a water-based solution (five tablespoons of soap per quart of water). The peppermint will repel the ticks and will remain effective for a few hours. Citronella oil: add two drops to a quart of water and use the same way.
3. Garden grade diatomaceous earth (DE): add one tablespoon to a quart of water and spray on. You can also dust it on your clothes or your dog’s coat. This will kill and repel ticks for a short period of time. One handful of DE is enough for a dog. Start at the top of his neck, behind his head, and thoroughly dust his coat. Avoid getting it into his eyes. Allow it to stay on dog as it will not harm him.
4. Pure pyrethrum powder: use as a dust on your clothes or your dog’s coat.
Natural soaps with added essential oils: You can bathe in them, wash your clothes in them, and also wash your hair, allowing the foam to sit for a few minutes. Dogs will also love this. Take a bottle of peppermint soap with you whenever you go camping or hiking, along with a sprayer. By adding water and soap to the bottle, you can mist yourself and your dog as well as your camping area. Garden grade DE can be added to the soap to increase its long term effectiveness.
5. Citra Solve: another effective tick repellent. Use one tablespoon per quart of water. Spray the areas you are working or playing in, but avoid contact with skin and eyes.
Herbal flea collars: avoid the chemical variety!
6. Plant peppermint around your garden or lawns. It will help repel ticks from your yard. Peppermint is easy to grow and spreads quickly.
7. Eat garlic during camping or hiking trips, or while doing outside work. This is another effective way to keep ticks from attaching themselves to you. Feeding your dog garlic will protect him as well. You can also put a small piece in your shoe before you go outside to work or hike. The garlic will be absorbed by your body and given off through your pores, effectively repelling ticks and fleas. (Of course you may also repel your friends and fellow hikers, but they’ll get used to it!) Planting garlic around your property will also work in the long run as an effective tick repellent. Brewers yeast is another effective food supplement you can use for yourself and your animals as an effective tick repellent.
5. Strengthen your immune system. Lyme disease is a reflection of weakening immunity. All living beings are being attacked by the chemicals in our environment, and are breaking down in their ability to fight off diseases. At the same time, pests like ticks are becoming immune to the chemicals designed to kill them. By strengthening your immune system, and your companion’s, you can go a long way towards protecting yourselves from Lyme disease. The best way to do this is for both of you to eat pure food and drink pure water, breathe pure air, and reduce the stress in your lives.
What if a tick bites you or your animal?
If you find a tick on yourself or your companion, proper removal is crucial, since leaving the head embedded in the flesh will cause infection and increase the possibility of getting Lyme disease. Using the proper tweezers is important. Try Uncle Bills Sliver Gripper or his Tick Removal Kit, which comes with tweezers, a magnifying lens, alcohol wipes, two plastic bags for keeping the suspected tick for later identification, and a tick identification card. If you’re in any doubt about whether or not you have removed the whole tick, see a doctor or vet as soon as possible.
Applying hot goldenseal tea directly to the infected area will help it heal faster. Vitamin C will also reduce infection and increase a return to health. An echinacea and goldenseal mixture taken internally will help fight off any infection or disease, while vitamin E taken internally and applied to the bite will also reduce infection and the chances of getting Lyme disease.
Alternatives to antibiotics
Although antibiotics are commonly prescribed to treat Lyme disease, there are other approaches. “We often use homeopathy for treating Lyme,” says Dr. Newkirk. “Using Ledum 1M potency three times a day for three days seems to help, as does another homeopathic combo remedy called Lym D. I will also do a treatment with NAET to improve the body’s immune response to the organism.”
There’s no doubt that Lyme disease is a serious issue, but it’s not the cause for panic that many people think it is. Combining common sense prevention with a healthy, natural, organic lifestyle can significantly reduce your risk of illness – and your furry friend’s.