We’re not panicking alarmists, but we are pragmatists, so we’ve been researching natural tick protection for our kids. Reported Lyme Disease cases have tripled over the past few decades. About 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme Disease each year. “We’re anticipating 2017 to be a particularly risky year for Lyme,” says Disease Ecologist Rick Ostfeld, who has spent 20 years studying tick populations at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York. An abundance of acorns typically leads to an abundance of mice scurrying around with disease-carrying ticks, he explains.
What is Lyme Disease?
We tend to worry about ticks and Lyme Disease while packing for camping trips, but ticks are just as likely to strike in a backyard or urban park setting. Ticks can be as small as a poppyseed, so they’re easy to miss. Not everyone gets the telltale “bulls-eye” rash. Sometimes it’s just red and expanding. The flu-like symptoms of early stage Lyme Disease can be easy to miss, too. Complications of untreated disease may include facial palsy, neuropathy, cognitive impairments, heart arrhythmias, and joint inflammation.
This sounds pretty awful, but keep in mind:
- Not all ticks carry Lyme Disease.
- It takes about 24-36 hours for infected ticks to transmit the pathogen.
- Early one-day treatment with doxycycline is enough to prevent harmful effects.
How can you prevent Lyme Disease?
As they say, “prevention is the best cure!” Unfortunately, the Lyme vaccine by French biotech company Valneva is still in early human trials and at least six years away from release, so there is no way to completely keep ticks away.
Common prophylactic measures include chemical applications of DEET (sold in products like OFF!) and Picaridin (sold in products like Skin So Soft). While deemed “safe,” these ingredients have been found to cause acute skin, eye, and lung irritations. Furthermore, animal studies conducted by a Duke University researcher linked long-term exposure with impaired muscle control, strength, coordination, memory, and learning abilities.
Are there natural products to repel ticks?
Fortunately, if you’re not too keen on the idea of dousing your children in chemicals every time you want to go for a hike, there are a few natural alternatives.
The CDC recommends essential oil blends of garlic oil, rosemary, cedar, peppermint, thyme, lemongrass, and geraniol. Common Sense Home offers this homemade tick repellent recipe: 20 drops of Rose Geranium Essential Oil, 10 drops of Sweetgrass Essential Oil, 5 drops of Lavender Essential Oil, 5 drops of Citronella or Lemon Essential Oil, 4 oz. of Rubbing Alcohol, Witch Hazel, Apple Cider Vinegar, or Distilled Water. The downside of natural oils is that they aren’t effective for more than 30 minutes, so you have to keep a spray bottle handy for constant re-applying.
The Environmental Working Group recommends parents choose tick repellents for kids with less than 30% DEET, 20% Picaridin, and 30-40% Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (if your child is over 3 years old). Based on these principles, Cool Mom Picks recommends tick repellents by: Sawyer Fisherman, Repel, Nantucket, and Ben’s. Simply apply by spraying it onto your hands and rubbing it on exposed areas like the neck, legs, and arms, taking care to avoid the eyes, ears, and mouth.
According to Consumer Reports testing, the most effective NATURAL tick repellents were made by brands like: All-Terrain, Babyganics, Burt’s Bees, California Baby, and Cutter – which contained ingredients like citronella, geraniol, lemongrass, and rosemary oil. These products kept ticks away for at least six hours.
You can also buy clothing sprays or treated clothing containing Permethrin, which kills insects carrying Zika, Malaria, West Nile, and Lyme Disease.
Have a great summer!
With natural tick repellent stowed in your bag, you’ll have the peace of mind to confidently enjoy the great outdoors all summer long. If you’re looking for unique outdoor adventures and new ways to explore The City, contact us to learn more about Shine NYC workshops, camps, and parties.
Additional Tick Repellent Resources:
- org, Did You Get Bit by a Lyme-Infested Tick?, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/03/06/518065660/if-you-get-bit-by-a-lyme-infested-tick-here-are-5-tips
- gov, Natural Tick Repellents and Pesticides, https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/prev/natural-repellents.html
- EWG, EWG’s Guide to Bug Repellents in the Age of ZIKA: Kids, http://www.ewg.org/research/ewgs-guide-bug-repellents/kids#block2
By Jenn Fusion for Shine