If you go out in the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise. That line from a favorite children’s nursery rhyme is certainly true when it comes to ticks. Those creepy little critters carry some seriously nasty diseases, including Lyme disease, and they’re most active between April and September. In other words, if you’re going to be heading outdoors to enjoy the warmer weather, you need to be aware that the ticks are doing the same thing.
Lyme disease is far more common than many of us realize. Around 30,000 cases are reported by national health authorities each year, but the CDC believes that the true numbers are far higher, and as many as 300,000 people could actually be affected annually. Even celebrities Bella Hadid and Avril Lavigne have reported contracting the disease in recent years.
The biggest problem, it would seem, is that people who live in places where Lyme disease is common are unaware that they are at risk and do not take steps to protect themselves. The result is that many people enter affected areas without protective clothing or bug repellent, and end up taking more than lungfuls of fresh air home with them.
Since the tick problem is such a common one, it is hardly surprising that a Facebook video of a woman removing a tick from her body with just a drop of peppermint oil has gone viral; at last count, over 27 million people had viewed the post.
The clip shows the tick getting so irritated by the peppermint oil that after just 20 seconds it crawls away from the affected area. On the surface this looks particularly impressive, because unlike other methods of removal like tweezers, the tick comes out in one piece, not leaving any of its mouth parts behind. This is important, because when those parts are left behind in the body they increase the risk of other infectious diseases.
Of course, this natural remedy has sent the mainstream medical community into hysterics. Opponents of the method insist that aggravating the tick in this manner might cause it to salivate into the body, increasing the risk of infectious disease transfer.
“Those are actually salivated into the body when the tick attaches and so we don’t want to agitate the tick in any way that is going to make it salivate more and thereby be more likely to transmit anything into you that may make you sick,” said Dr. Neeta Connally, assistant professor of Biology at Western Connecticut State University.
What Connally says certainly makes sense, but one has to wonder: Wouldn’t grabbing the tick with a pair of tweezers or another device also “aggravate” it? Why would that not cause it to “salivate more?”
While many online sources say that using “a pair of fine-tipped tweezers” to remove the tick is a great solution, others insist that tweezers are no good as they are likely to put too much pressure on the mouth parts and cause them to break off. These sources insist that only a special tick-removal device will suffice.
It seems highly unlikely to me that many people keep such special devices around the house. As is almost always the case, prevention seems by far to be the best solution.
Here are some tips to keep the ticks off your body in the first place:
- Wear light-colored long-sleeved shirts and pants whenever you go walking in wooded areas or shady grassland.
- Apply a natural, non-chemical insect repellent to your skin and clothing before leaving the house.
- Check very carefully for ticks in all the hairy parts of your body after you return home, including easy-to-forget areas like your scalp and underarms.
- Wash your clothing as soon as possible.
- If you do find a tick on your body, get a doctor or someone with a special tick remover to get the tick out as soon as possible. Time is of the essence; it takes between 36 and 48 hours for a tick to transmit Lyme disease to a host after it becomes attached.
- Watch out for a tell-tale bulls-eye rash anywhere on your body if you think you may have been in a tick-infested area. This rash can appear anywhere between three and 30 days after exposure, and indicates Lyme disease infection.
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