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Tick Tock

3417249987_895aeffb86 Summer is here in NE Ohio and instead of thinking about finally being able to hit the pool or dress for warm weather without it suddenly getting windy, chilly or rainy…I’m starting to itch.

Soon my family will be loading up in our minivan and heading out for our vacation, a multi-state camping trip.  And while I am looking forward to the variety of birds I’ll see, the buffalo, the moose, the grizzlies, etc. there is one creature I am not looking forward to. The tick.

I’ve never actually had a tick on me. Which is to say, I don’t recall having ever had one attached to my skin. The amount of time I spent playing in the woods, catching tadpoles at the creek or climbing trees as a child tells me they may have just escaped notice and dropped off on their own. But I do remember my mother removing a few from our dog and my older brother using tweezers and a match.

The last time my husband and I went on this type of camping trip we stopped in Iowa to look at an interesting terraced farm field and when I got back in the car I had hitchhikers from the tall grass by the road. Luckily I saw them and ended their lives before they could find my skin. But the creepy horror of those ticks never quite left me the rest of the trip.  And here I am preparing for another trip and thinking about those two passengers and the likelihood that I’ll pick up a few of their friends this time too, or worse that my 20 month-old will.

As I’m preparing our first aid kit I’m wondering, what exactly should I include to keep ticks away? Or to treat them once they are already on us?  My only memories of my mom’s removal system were those tweezers and matches. I’m not sure I want to light a match near my son’s skin. And isn’t it dangerous to tweeze a tick? Doesn’t it increase the chance of Lyme Disease because it increases the chance you will leave the head in?

The American Lyme Disease Foundation is a great resource for a spastic insect terrorized mind. According to their website you have up to 36-48 hours after they attach before you even have to worry about getting infected. So if we’re smart and remember to check each other thoroughly each morning we’re not likely to have anything to worry about.  My fears about tweezers? Just fears. They recommend you use smooth-tipped tweezers so long as you also remember to grasp the tick by the head as close to the attached mouth as possible – which would reduce the chance of leaving anything behind. But don’t do what my mother did, and try to scare it out with a match. Matches are a no-no, according to the website, I’m guessing this is because you might just cause it to embed further making it impossible to detach. 

The best part about that website, for me anyway, is the Lyme Disease Range map, which indicates that we’ll only actually be in a danger zone for one night of our entire three week vacation. It just happens to be the one night we won’t be camping, because we’re stopping in Chicago to stay with my sister-in-law on the way home.

As for keeping them off me in the first place, I want to believe there is a natural oil I can use that if I wipe it on my skin before we head out for our hikes it will deter the blood suckers. Peppermint oil perhaps? Eucalyptus? I hear that apple cider vinegar might do the trick if ingested or wiped on the skin. But I also heard it would keep ants out of my house and that worked for a whopping 3 days, so I’m not that confident in ACV. Still, I've packed a few bars of Dr. Bonner's Peppermint Soap in the off chance that this recommended deterrent actually works.

I definitely don’t want to DEET us, but I do recall finding a DEET free insect wipe sample in my 10k goody bag recently. It may become a backup in case any natural methods I try turn out to be utter failures.

I’d love to know what other campers have opted for as tick protection and/or treatment.  What have you done that has worked? What have you done that was an utter failure?

Photo by Paul Henderson.

Original Ohio Moms Blog Post

When she's not planning offensive maneuvers against tiny bloodsuckers, Audrey shares her trials and triumphs in parenting and being a modern day housewife at Planet Hausfrau.