Being outdoors is wonderful, but it has its risks.
Rashes and bug bites are almost a guarantee when you spend the day in the forest. But some rashes are a little harder to discern.
If you’ve never seen a bull’s-eye shaped rash before, it may be surprising or even frightening, but once you know what you’re looking at, you’ll want to visit a doctor as soon as you can.
A bull’s eye shaped rash is caused by ticks, tiny arachnids that live in forests and high grass, but they can be found in nearly any humid outdoor environment.
There are over eight hundred species of ticks but only two are known to transmit diseases to humans—that’s the good news.
One of these little blood-sucking varmints is the black-legged tick whose range has spread in North America from southern Canada to Florida and their territory is growing because these bugs are known for hitching a ride on unwitting mammals as they move to more hospitable habitats (1, 2).
The black-legged tick can carry the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium that has been associated with the illness named Lyme disease as it was discovered in Lyme, Connecticut.
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It’s become the most common tick-borne disease, affecting three hundred thousand people in the United States every year. This microorganism can make you very sick, causing headaches, fever, blurry vision, vomiting, fatigue, chills, muscle aches, joint pain and other flu-like symptoms. Its trademark sign of contraction is the bull’s eye rash.
If caught early, antibiotics can kill the infection; if left untreated, it can cause serious damage to the heart, joints, brain function, and nervous system (3).
How to Prevent a Tick Bite
Don’t stay cooped up indoors all summer for fear of what crawls in the underbrush. Instead, take a common-sense approach to your time outdoors in high-risk areas and take the precautions to stay safe.
Wear protective clothing like long sleeves and pants, thick socks and closed-toe hiking shoes, especially if walking in wooded areas. Tuck pant legs into socks so a tick can’t crawl up (they’re very resourceful).
Apply essential oils that repel ticks like catnip, cedar, citronella, clove, eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, mint, rosemary, and tea tree. Make your own non-toxic bug repellant and spray extensively on skin and clothes, avoiding the eyes and nose.
Check yourself and children for ticks (they are very small, about the size of a pin head) after extensive time outdoors.
Remove a tick immediately if you see one:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, or soap and water.
- Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers (4).
While the risk of contracting Lyme disease from a tick bite is only between one and three percent, it’s important to be mindful of its prospect, as often you won’t feel the bite and won’t know you’re affected until symptoms manifest themselves.
Not everyone who gets Lyme disease will experience a rash. Some people will continue to suffer from symptoms even after antibiotic therapy and no one really knows why. This is known as Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome or “chronic Lyme”, up to 20% of people infected with Lyme disease are never fully cured (5).
“In addition to Bb’s [Borrelia burgdorferi] ability to protect itself from the immune system, many of the functional attributes and bacterial loci can influence the ability to treat Lyme disease with various antibiotics. Although Bb is susceptible to antibiotic treatment during early infection or treatment for Lyme disease, the bacteria is able to traverse the blood brain barrier, endothelial tissue, and imbed itself in joints. Bb can also enter certain cell intercellularly in addition to invaginating itself in a manner that reduces the potential exposure of antigens and limits the effectiveness of antibiotics.” (6).
If you do get bitten by a tick, see a healthcare provider immediately. You may also benefit from a natural parasite remedy to strengthen your immune system and prevent the spread of any bacteria.