by Jenny Lelwica Buttaccio
With summer in full swing, news articles and reports abound with almost daily warnings throughout the country about the dangers of ticks, the diseases they carry, and how to prevent tick bites. The word, it seems, is spreading about the threat tick-borne diseases pose to human health. However, as public awareness about ticks grows, people are left wondering if there’s more they can do to protect themselves when they’re outside.
Additionally, for people with a history of Lyme disease and coinfections like babesia, bartonella, and more, going back out into nature can, understandably, be a scary experience. But there are ways to ease the transition and overcome fear. One strategy we’ve found particularly helpful to prepare for spending time outdoors is to create a tick kit — a set of portable and inexpensive tools to take with you in case you should need to remove an embedded tick promptly.
To help with the planning process, we’ve developed a series of infographics highlighting the items you might want to include in your tick kit. We’ve also added a list of resources for tick testing and a handy DIY tick repellent blend so that you have options for protecting yourself and your family. Although we can’t alleviate every risk for ticks, tick bites, and tick-borne diseases like Lyme, we can assist you in becoming more tick-ready so you can continue to enjoy the great outdoors in whatever way is most comfortable to you.
Tick Kit Essentials
The following items can be placed inside a durable pouch to create your own tick kit for on-the-go adventures or relaxing outdoors.
- Fine-Pointed Tweezers
- Cotton ball
- Small scissors to trim hair or fur
- Magnifying glass to locate the tick
- Tick repellent
- Container or small sealable bag to hold a tick after removal
- Alcohol pad to clean the site of the bite
- Rubber gloves
Other items to consider are a tick identification card, which is available online from retailers and nonprofit organizations for a small fee, a pocket mirror for hard-to-see areas, and a tick comb for your pet. Arrange the items in a zip-up pouch or bag, and carry them with you wherever you go.
DIY Lemon Eucalyptus Tick Repellent
Looking for a tick repellent that you can make yourself? Research suggests oil of lemon eucalyptus with a preparation of 30% may be as effective as DEET at preventing mosquito and tick bites. You can make your own to keep on hand with the following ingredients:
- 30 drops of oil of lemon eucalyptus
- 1 tsp of vanilla extract
- 4 ounces of witch hazel, apple cider vinegar, or vodka
Mix ingredients together in a bottle, and apply the repellent to exposed skin. Natural tick repellents must be reapplied more often than tick repellants made from chemicals, so consider a touch-up every two hours or so.
Ticks Testing Options
When you remove a tick that’s bitten you or another person, store it in your tick container or plastic bag and consider sending it out to be tested for tick-borne diseases. Tick testing doesn’t cover all microbe possibilities, but many companies will evaluate for the most common pathogenic species of borrelia, bartonella, babesia, ehrlichia, among others. However, they do charge a fee. Additionally, local or state agencies, such as universities, may offer tick testing at little to no cost as part of research and data collection projects, but those programs will vary from state to state.
- TickCheck: TickCheck will test for multiple pathogens, including borrelia, anaplasma, babesia, bartonella, Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), and more.
- IGenex: IGenex offers testing for pathogens like borrelia, tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF), babesia, anaplasma, ehrlichia, bartonella, and rickettsia.
- TickReport: With results in 72 hours, TickReport test microbes, such as various species of borrelia, rickettsia, babesia, ehrlichia, and more.
- Ticknology: Ticknology tests for multiple strains of borrelia, as well as babesia, bartonella, RMSF, ehrlichia, and other microbes.
Please note: Tick testing is not a replacement for diagnostic Lyme disease testing. If you’ve been bitten by a tick or suspect you’ve been bitten, please consult with your healthcare provider about proper treatment and a plan of care.
We can’t eliminate every opportunity to come in contact with ticks, but we can control how prepared we are in the event that a tick bite occurs. So, get yourself tick-ready by creating your own tick kit, then head outdoors to soak up the rest of the summer sun and absorb the healing potential of nature.
1. Gardulf A, Wohlfart I, Gustafson R. A prospective cross-over field trial shows protection of lemon eucalyptus extract against tick bites. J Med Entomol. 2004 Nov;41(6):1064-7. doi: 10.1603/0022-2585-41.6.1064