Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Preventing Lyme Disease Déjà Vu

Tall Grasses Can Be A Tick's Favorite Habitat
Ah, creepy, crawly, and flying critters. The unsung fun of summer.  I'm hoping this year it will turn out that I have gotten the better of them.

I am recently back from vacation and I'm really hoping I didn't get any party favors from the wild this time. Not like last summer,  as some of you may remember, when I came home  from vacation with a not so pleasant surprise -- Lyme disease.  (You can read about that little adventure here.)

I have to admit that while I was in area known for Lyme Disease last August, I did not take enough extra precautions to prevent tick bites or bug bites in general.  Up until that point, I had been lucky enough to live and vacation in the Northeast for most of the last 30 years and never contract Lyme. Little did I realize that Lyme is now everywhere in the region.

That said, it wasn't laziness or a feeling of over-confidence that prevented me from taking extra precautions. I wasn't sure what to do about bug spray.  I had always used sprays with DEET, but with autoimmune disease and extensive allergies, I became concerned about using strong chemicals.  My doctor even advised me to avoid DEET if possible, but didn't suggest any alternatives to use. That obviously wasn't very helpful advice. And unfortunately I over-compensated; I was not smart and just went without insect repellent altogether. This year that wasn't an option.  My doctors expressed serious concern about me contacting Lyme or another insect born illness again.

So over the past few months, I've made insect protection a priority. My go-to has been All Terrain Herbal Armor Insect Repellent.  It's a DEET-free spray containing a number of oils such as citronella and lemongrass that are supposed to be effective bug repellants. It did not cause any skin irritation problems and worked well.  I've actually been hiking in the woods and come back without any mosquito bites. The solution has a woodsy smell, but nothing too over powering and certainly there is no chemical odor. Would I wear it as a perfume? No, but the smell did not deter me from using it. I prefer the smaller 2 ounce bottle so it doesn't add to much additional weight to my purse, which is already chock full of essential meds and EpiPens.

I also experimented with the Badger Balm Ant-Bug Balm.  It's ingredients are very similar to the All-Terrain with a few small differences.  The Badger Balm contains rosemary oil and the All Terrain has soybean and peppermint oils. While they worked equally as well, the Badger Balm's smell was a little too much for me so I tended to use the All Terrain more often.  This is probably just a matter of personal preference.  With both of these natural repellents, it is much more important to cover every inch of exposed skin to prevent bites than when using DEET.  I also found re-application to be essential at least every two hours.  

Natural insect repellent was not my only strategy to prevent getting Lyme or West Nile.  I tried to be vigilant about keeping myself covered when outside in wooded areas or those with tall grass. This meant trying to wear longer pants like capris (as opposed to shorts and dresses), sneakers, and socks that went above my ankle.  I have to keep as much skin covered as possible to prevent autoimmune flares in the sun so adding bug protection to my routine wasn't really a major change.

While I wasn't prefect all the time--sometimes I did find myself in the grass with flip-flops on--I was definitely much more cautious than last summer. I'll soon found out if my precautions worked and I was able to prevent those tiny critters from transmitting anything to me.

*I have no relationship with any of the companies whose products are mentioned in this post* 


  1. just been powering through tons of autoimmune blogs to get a grip on what is going on in my life. thank you so much for sharing! we can do this!
    please read my adventures if you are interested? Lucygetsaclue.blogspot.com

    1. Thanks for writing Lucy and hope you're hanging in there. I'll check out your blog too.