Ahh Summer. Arguably the best season is on it's way and in New England it's FINALLY warm enough to get outdoors for sessions. Every year I'm tempted by gorgeous grasses, fields with wild flowers and other similar settings that diffuse the light so beautifully and create stunning images. Here's the thing though, in recent years the only thing I can see are TICKS when looking at those spots. Even if they haven't jumped onto me, I just know they're there and that's enough to keep me away.
About 10 years ago one of my best friends from college was battling Lyme disease. Actually, battling the disease wasn't even the issue then, it was battling the doctors to get more tests and find answers. I remember vividly one call when she was on bluetooth as my husband and I were driving for a weekend away. She was complaining about this sensation where it felt like bugs were crawling all over her body. "That "MITE" be a problem" my husband joked as we laughed, neither of us fully grasping the severity of her situation. Years of negative and inconclusive Lyme tests and many doctors later, she finally got the diagnosis she knew she was waiting for. Yes, she had Lyme disease but not only Lyme, many other serious co-infections as well. Technically, she has neurological/late stage Lyme disease, which is a fairly common Lyme diagnosis when Lyme has gone untreated for a long time. Thankfully she was proactive with her health and traveled the world for care, finding unique solutions that would give temporary reprieve so she could do things like, get out of bed and maybe get to grad school or work. The truth is, even with a diagnosis, support and care, there were times she was still too sick to work or attend school. My favorite drinking buddy could no longer have wine without her weird skin symptoms acting up. She has alternately taken roughly 30 pills a day and spent months at a time doing IV antibiotics. If you can believe it, she's a success story in the Lyme community. She fought for a diagnosis and sought out care while attending grad school and working. She currently works as an Art Therapist, helping patients like her, who suffer from Lyme and other tick born diseases. She manages her chronic condition daily and while some days are better than others, she's become a force within the Lyme advocacy community.
So with Kerry in my mind, I just can't see those settings the same way. When scouting locations I try avoid tall, grassy areas, woods, leaf piles, dunes, etc. When I have a client whose heart is set on that type of setting I will do it, but not without extreme caution and lots of preventative measures.
I have a pretty crazy regimen for tick prevention, so I want to share it with you to hopefully, protect you and your family as you venture out this summer:
- If you know you'll be in areas where ticks dwell (woods, tall grasses, leaf piles, wood piles, etc), wear light colors so if ticks do make it onto your body, they'll be easier to spot.
- Wear bug spray. I don't personally recommend one brand or type over another, but do your own research and purchase what you're comfortable with. Kerry recommends sprays with lemon and eucalyptus oil for skin. You can do an essential oils mix or products like Tick Tock Naturals or Repel Lemon Eucalyptus . She also feels that Permethrin is extremely effective for tick prevention, but it's not recommended for skin, only shoes and clothes. I personally avoid it, but I know many people do choose to use it.
- If we're going into tick laden areas we will do tick checks throughout the session. Nothing terribly time consuming, but I do call out "TICK CHECK" like a crazy lady to ensure I keep it light while keeping everyone safe!
- Immediately following the shoot or anytime we're moving from outdoors indoor or even into a car, I tell my clients to use a lint brush and roll down their clothes. This is such a simple and effective way to make sure you're not taking any unwanted friends home with you. This is also great to do on your sheets at night if you have dogs/cats who tend to laze on or sleep in your bed.
- Once the session is over, everyone should take baths or showers. All clothes can be thrown into the dryer right away to kill any elusive buggers.
- After everyone is bathed, tick check one last time. Kerry stresses checking ALL THE CREVICES. Behind the ears, knees, etc. Ticks have this nasty superpower of being virtually undetectable when they bite, so they are easy to miss. I also recommend taking a lice brush through hair to make sure none are hiding in your locks.
IF you do find a tick:
- Gently remove the tick with Tick Tweezers, Kerry recommends these Tick Ease Tweezers . She also stresses to NOT: use ice, chemicals, oils, etc., on the tick as this could cause it to regurgitate its contents into your skin.
- Once you've removed the tick, put it in a plastic bag with a small, damp piece of paper towel and send it off for testing. There are many places that will test the ticks, Kerry recommends Tick Report .
- Get to your doctor. You'll want to get on treatment ASAP, waiting too long to get care can lessen your chance of getting rid of all of the Lyme bacteria, if you do by chance have Lyme.
- Lastly, don't be afraid to be your own advocate. Many times Lyme tests are negative or inconclusive. If you're experiencing symptoms that you think are in line with Lyme, Babesia, etc., and are not getting the answers or help you need, seek alternate care. More and more resources are popping up so you can find support! Kerry recommends Tick Encounter, as a great resource for tips on treating your yard, tick identification, and tick education: which which types of ticks carry different types of pathogens.
Hopefully my crazy prevention methods are helpful for you! Just being aware of situations/settings that are likely to have ticks is immensely helpful. Don't be afraid to live, but definitely protect yourself and seriously, if you're not already doing it, please do nightly tick checks. I'm not a medical professional or Lyme expert, just a mom who wants to protect her minis and clients. Consult a medical professional if you have questions on Lyme disease and follow Kerry's professional page, for Lyme awareness, advocacy and support.