The #1 question we have been asked once the snow melted was, “How do you handle ticks?” So I finally decided to sit down and give you my FULL post on these guys, because they are a reality, but they don’t have to mean you need to stay inside all summer or till the snow falls again. For us, it is all about education, intention, and being aware of the danger. So let’s dig in.
First of all, Michigan has a tick problem like most of the US. They are dangerous and carry a lot of diseases the number 1 being Lyme Disease, which is nothing to just shrug off. It is serious, but with the proper education, routines, preventions, and precautions it can easily be avoided. We personally have setup routines in our home to keep them from being on us hopefully any period of time and we have chosen to avoid harmful chemicals in the process. I believe it is possible unless you live somewhere or are visiting an area where they are just overwhelming, then do what you need to, but for us, we are talking about finding one or two a summer, maybe.
I am of strong belief that life is full of danger whether you live in a city or in the woods. So just like anything you stay wise and aware. This is how we approach parenting and life living in the country. Hayes and us will encounter dangers in our time living here, but by enjoying the outdoors we most likely will reap greater rewards than anything else if we get out and enjoy the nature around us. So, we live knowing the dangers (he does as well) but never allowing it to bound us home or within a small area. So to get started let’s break down ticks:
GENERAL TICK AND BITE INFO:
- There are various types of ticks but the most common are Dog Ticks and Deer Ticks in most areas of the US.
- They are mostly found in high grasses in shaded areas, under trees, along paths frequented by deer.
- Most begin their connection to you the knee down as they are typically closer to the ground, but can be found nearly anywhere.
- They bite and slowly insert their head and body under your skin and transmit microbes this way to you.
- There are over 800 types of ticks and they come in various shapes and sizes. Know your area well enough to know the ones most common to look for.
- It takes roughly 24 hours for Lyme to transmit for catching a tick early before biting or in the initial bite is imperative to prevention.
- If you are bit watch for a “bull’s eye” circle to show up. If it does go to the doctor as soon as possible. The sooner you are treated the less likely your symptoms are sever or long lasting.
I think it is first good to know what you are looking for in this and to inform kids about this so they are aware of why this is important and how to keep an eye out on themselves for them.
This is how we prevent them, I am not suggesting these as the sole way to do it, just this is how we have avoided them thus far in our family living in the woods and in an area ticks are present. The CDC has a great list of ways to prevent them, though most suggestions include DEET products, which in worst case situations are necessary, but our amount of ticks we encounter doesn’t warrant that sort of application here so we keep to natural prevention methods at this time.
Perform DAILY if not more frequent tick checks:
This is like as important as a rule to us as sunscreen, taking shoes off at the door, and more. We literally walk in the door and check ourselves from head to toe. We run our hands through our scalps in all directions, check our ears in and out and behind, look around hair lines, check armpits and elbow folds, we look in our belly buttons, behind knees, between fingers and toes, and MOST important in butt cracks and other private areas. It seems insane, but THIS is how you prevent them. All other prevention methods are just bonuses, but we do these checks at least once a day if not a couple times even if we haven’t entered the woods and spent our time on the porch. We check. What does it hurt? Hayes is a pro now and he never complains because he knows it is important.
Mow areas frequently that are used as common family spaces:
This means for us we have created a grass area where we feel comfortable for Hayes to play freely. We keep specific areas around our home mowed so that it doesn’t encourage ticks to enter the grasses. These are what we consider our safe areas.
Add Tick deterrent plants to your landscape:
We have added Lavender plants and rosemary to the perimeter of our “safe areas” these plants help prevent ticks interest.
Keep pets on Flea and Tick medicine:
Most people I know that have gotten tick bites got them from their pets so it is really important to keep your pets on regular medication that is ingested into their system from the last thaw to the first serious freeze. I also suggest keeping animals out of your beds or places where you sleep. Ticks can enter these places and then get on you and you may never know for days.
Take Regular Showers and baths:
I think when we are highly aware of our bodies we can be aware of changes, thus, finding a bug that may have attached so we do daily bathing even if quick and simple. I like washing away a dirty day anyways and it gives us one more point to check out bodies.
Deter Deer from areas you enjoy as a family:
This is part of the reason we built the wall around our garden it will make it hard for deer to enter this area of our outdoor spaces which ultimately creates and even more less likely spot for us to find ticks on us. Though we spend a lot of time where deer walk anyways, but it is nice to have an area we know has a lower potential.
Wear long clothing in light colors:
We aren’t awesome at this all the time, but we try our very best. Light colors allow you to identify a tick on your clothing since most are dark colored. Keeping boots on and your pants tucked in keeps them from getting to you. Since the main point of entrance is around ankles, this is why this is a usual suggestion.
Spray yourself before any encounters with the Outdoors:
We don’t use any DEET sprays in our home. We are pretty hardcore about keeping things natural both for ourselves and the environment. To me, anything that kills or messes with a nervous system of a small creature will do the same to us on some way even if small. That said, though I am not a big essential oil user, I do believe nature offers us protection from the things of greatest harm to us. So below I have gathered up sprays people are suggested to us, but we are currently working on making our own in larger quantities to spray on us, our dogs, and our shoes that frequent our adventures. The one we currently use and have liked is from Doterra and is called TerraShield. It smells good and more or less keeps away the ticks and doesn’t harm them.
Essential Oils to use: Lavender, Cedarwood, Geranium, Lemongrass, Citronella, Eucalyptus and Garlic Oil
***If using essential oils to make your own spray know if they are safe for skin contact and for pets. Some can be harmful. Geranium, Lavender, and Cedarwood are the most powerful repellants and are safe for animals as well as kids. It is best to put a small amount into a roller or spray bottle with a carrier oil like grapeseed oil or jojoba and water. There are MANY recipes online so just look for one that sounds good for you and your family****
***** Though there are ways to prevent them, I will reiterate there is NO trusting prevention and the best way to be sure you haven’t gotten one tagging along is DAILY check of your body head to toe. We do these things, but they aren’t full proof to us. The only thing that is the regular checking. ****
WHAT IF I FIND ONE?
I am not an expert so I will lead you to the CDC because this is what we would follow if one was found. We have only removed them from our dogs when we lived in North Carolina. The biggest thing to know though is you want to remove the head! Improper removal is no good and I would suggest seeing a doctor immediately. You will also want to clean the bite well with antiseptic to lower your chances of any contamination. But please read this article and have proper tools on hand for quick and successful removal. You also will want to keep the tick in a jar or plastic bag till you are sure no symptoms occur. Having it helps your doctor test and figure out what they may be dealing with.
As I noted above it takes roughly 24 hours for a tick to transmit Lyme and other microbes that may be harmful, so focusing on checking thoroughly daily (every 12 hours) will keep your chances of a harmful bite and potential sickness as low as possible. It is important to see a doctor though quickly if a bite is had and you have concerns. Don’t let it go for a long period whatsoever.
As I said, Tick prevention and keeping you and your family healthy is best done by regular checks. I also felt much better knowing that it takes 24 hours or so for things to transmit and the earlier it is caught the less likely of sickness. Ticks are for sure a danger to warm days and outdoor play, but they don’t have to keep you from having a great time. Just know it is simple with awareness, intention, education, responding quickly, and most of all self care for the whole family.
If you have further questions or things that have worked for your family please share below. All of the above is simply what we do and isn’t meant to be a full proof option, but this has worked for us over the last few years really well. Though I will say our tick population compared to most places is lower so talk with local health professionals and keep up to date with any warnings in public natural areas you visit.