DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional or a tick expert, just a southerner who hates ticks.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've no doubt read or heard about how bad the ticks are this year. On Facebook Moms' groups, I'm seeing stories daily of people finding ticks on their little ones and asking for advice on how to remove them or what to do once the tick is removed. My answer: try to prevent the bite in the first place. Of course, no method is foolproof when it comes to trying to outsmart bugs and critters, but you can't just roll over and give up, you gotta give it a fighting chance.
First things first, know your enemy. Ticks come in many colors and sizes, but the most common is small and brown, which makes them terribly hard to see, especially if they get into your hair or on your pet (which can then be brought into your house). If you have pets that play outside, it is imperative that you treat your yard for fleas and ticks. There are several eco-friendly products out there, you just have to look for them. Or you could get a small flock of chickens... or opossum, I'm not judging. Chickens and opossum are both well known for eating their weight in ticks.
Ticks live primarily in the grass, but you don't have to live in a rural area to be potential tick breakfast. Ticks are known for spreading several serious diseases, the most common being Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The well-known bullseye type rash associated with some tick bites might even be the first sign you or your loved one was bitten. This rash can take 3-30 days to develop and always warrants a trip to the doctor for treatment.
According to the CDC... "The rash seen with Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) varies greatly from person to person in appearance, location, and time of onset. About 10% of people with RMSF never develop a rash. Most often, the rash begins 2-5 days after the onset of fever as small, flat, pink, non-itchy spots (macules) on the wrists, forearms, and ankles and spreads to the trunk. It sometimes involves the palms and soles. The red to purple, spotted (petechial) rash of RMSF is usually not seen until the sixth day or later after onset of symptoms and occurs in 35-60% of patients with the infection."
Now that we know what we're looking for, where do we look? Well, in short, everywhere that is covered in skin. No, seriously, everywhere... yes, even there. I remember as a child, coming in from playing in the backyard my Mom would do a tick check in my hair and behind my ears, as I got ready for my bath. I didn't realize at the time how important that little ritual was, but I am so appreciative my Mom did.
According to this fun infographic from WebMD, ticks like to hide in all the creases and crevices you might forget about, so make sure to check your child (and yourself) thoroughly. And don't forget about Spot and Fluffy. Your pets can definitely be an unknowing participant in the tick's master plan.
As the old saying goes, "sometimes the best defense is a good offense". In this case, the offense is the offensive smell of the tea tree oil in the tick repellent I am about to tell you how to make. It is super easy, kid-safe and all natural. And, if you already have a basic essentials oils collection, you likely already have all the ingredients you will need to make it at home.
You can make this two ways, one recipe is for a rollerball and the other is for use in a spray bottle. I prefer the rollerball because I feel it is thicker and the slightly greasy texture makes your skin a harder target for the tick to cling to. (Or at least I have convinced myself of this, it might just be anecdotal, who knows) It's also super handy to toss it in your purse or backpack.
For the spray bottle version, the recipe is... 2 oz Tea Tree oil (safe to apply neat aka directly to the skin), a 2:1 ratio of a carrier oil (I use almond oil, but fractionated coconut would work too) and water. I also add a splash of 99% isopropyl alcohol (I have used PGA in a pinch) as a preservative. Add a few drops of lavender and some lemongrass for added benefits, but you could totally use just the tea tree if you're sensitive to the other two.
The recipe for the rollerball is the same, minus the water and the alcohol. Mix it in a glass jar or bottle and transfer to a rollerball. Use generously whenever you go outside until after the first or second frost when all threat of ticks is gone. Always remember to mix and store your oils in glass, as some oils will react with plastic.
You could also add some tea tree oil to your favorite pet shampoo, it's safe on their skin too, just make sure they don't lick the shampoo while you're applying it.
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