Prevention is the best treatment for Lyme disease.
If you live in a Lyme-endemic area, you’re probably well aware of common Lyme Disease prevention strategies, primarily protecting yourself against ticks and any exposed skin they may be attracted to. Our recommendations for the prevention of tick-borne illness are non-toxic and start before you leave your home to explore the great outdoors.
Permethrin is a non-toxic insecticide that’s registered for use by the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s a synthetic version of pyrethrum, a natural insecticide produced from the chrysanthemum flower. Permethrin is applied to your clothing and gear only, never to your skin. Clothing should be light-colored with a fairly tight weave so you can easily spot ticks. You can also line the perimeter of your property with permethrin, making it a less hospitable habitat. It lasts for six weeks or six washings and repels or kills ticks and mosquitos on contact. Treat all of your outdoor clothing and gear with Permethrin as the first step in Lyme disease prevention.
Before you leave the house, cover all your skin with your Permethrin-treated clothing, including your head, ears, and neck. Tuck your pants into your socks. Then use a 30% lemon-eucalyptus insect repellent on your clothing and skin. We don’t recommend repellent containing DEET, as it’s absorbed into the body and is neurotoxic.
While you hike, camp, hunt, or garden, try to avoid thick vegetation and leaf litter. Stay in the center of trails and avoid brushing against trees. After outdoor activity, wash your clothing and then dry on high for at least 30 minutes to kill any ticks. Do a tick check on all members of your family, including your pets, as they can get Lyme disease, too, and may carry ticks into your house. Make sure to have someone else examine hard-to-see places like your back and scalp.
If you find a tick that’s already attached, remove it safely and promptly. There is a correct way to remove a tick so it’s less likely to get irritated and release saliva that may contain Lyme or other diseases.
- Using a tweezer, pinch the tick as close to the bite site as possible.
- Pull gently using even pressure but never twist or jerk. The mouth may detach from the body and stay in the skin. Sometimes this happens no matter how careful you are. Try to pull the mouth from the skin after cleaning the tweezers. If you don’t succeed, leave it there.
- Clean the bite site and your hands with soap and water and wipe with rubbing alcohol.
- Do not crush or puncture the tick body. If the tick is alive, put it in alcohol to kill it. Place it in a bag, as you may want to send it in for testing to see if it was infected with Borrelia bacteria or coinfections.
- Contact your doctor. ILADS guidelines recommend black-legged tick bites be treated with 20 days of doxycycline. If you still develop flu-like symptoms or an EM rash, consider comprehensive testing to confirm Lyme as well as any coinfections. Brio Medical Lyme team physicians can assess your symptoms and order the necessary labs as the first step in addressing tick-borne illness after a confirmed bite.
A single tick bite can cause a lifetime of consequences. With a few simple precautions, you can significantly decrease your risk of acquiring Lyme disease. Remember, prevention is the best treatment.