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Tick Kit: An Important Piece for Family Wellness

Well. It has been a long time since I’ve written in this space. We’ve gone “off the grid” a bit and are currently living in a small rural town in Maine. This is our temporary housing situation until we close on our “real” Maine home in August. It has been an adjustment living in a small cabin, not all bad– just an adjustment.

The biggest adjustment has been dealing with the bugs in Maine. I thought the mosquitoes in Florida were awful…. Maine, well… the ticks, the brown-tail caterpillars… Now, they are no joke. We’ve been here for about 3 weeks, and both of our younger kids have been diagnosed with tick-borne illnesses. We’ve done tick checks, we try to keep them out of the tall grass, we spray (with chemical-free) bug sprays.

So, the point of me writing this is to tell you. I want you to create a tick kit. I want you to take ticks seriously.

I don’t care if you are not outdoorsy, if you don’t live in an endemic area, or if you take ALL of the precautions. Deer ticks are miniscule. A freckle. Tinier than a freckle. And time is critical in identifying the tick and taking precautions.

It is an adaptation to have to be so friggin’ hyper aware. However, it is necessary! If you, or anyone you know has battled Lyme disease– the effects can last a lifetime.

Every second that a tick is feeding on you or your child, it is potentially passing on Lyme, Babesia, Bartonella or other co-infections. Ticks often carry more than one infection. Again, time is crucial in removing and identifying the tick. Each moment you spend searching for tweezers or a plastic baggie, the tick is spreading more of its ick. Seriously.

The Kit

A tick kit is simple. Having one on hand can help you beat the clock and remove and identify the tick ASAP. The contents are easy-peasy. It is just crucial to have them accessible and ready to go in a few moments. If you are like me, you will spend 30 minutes locating these items if they are not packed and ready to go.

  • A few index cards
  • A ziplock baggie
  • Tweezers with a sharp point
  • Sharpie
  • Clear tape
  • Alcohol wipes

Just throw the contents in the baggie and put it in your travel pack or car if you are out and about or in your medicine cabinet at home.

How to Remove a Tick

  1. Use pointed tip tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
  2. Pull upward, without twisting or jerking so that you remove the tick completely. If your hand is not steady you may jerk the tick, leaving its mouthparts embedded in the skin. If this would happen, make sure to remove the mouthparts as well.
  3. After removing, tape the tick to the index card and write the details of time, date and location it was found. This is good information to have if symptoms appear. The doctors will have the full picture for treatment.
  4. Next, clean the bite with the alcohol wipe and watch and wait. Symptoms can occur 3-30 days post bite. Watch for fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, headaches or a bullseye rash.

Avoid using folk remedies to remove the tick. It has been found that applying nail polish, petroleum jelly, or any other number of remedies actually causes the tick to regurgitate its contents deeper into the skin.

Sending the Tick off for Testing

To get your tick tested, simply visit www.TickReport.com and follow instructions to receive your tick order number.  Then place your tick in a ziplock bag, label it with your order number, and mail the labeled tick to the Laboratory of Medical Zoology, 270 Stockbridge Rd., University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003.  Results will be sent to you in 3-5 business days.  

This does not replace receiving medical advice/treatment, but it can give you an idea of what you are dealing with.

Take Tick Bites Seriously

An ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure, I’ve been told. Ticks are definitely something that can easily be missed. Some ways to make the burden of ticks less cumbersome– having your tick kit on hand is a priority. Also, wearing light-colored clothing and bundling up. Long pants, tucked into socks, long sleeves and hats can help protect. Tick checks. Checking every crevice, multiple times per day if you are in an endemic area and making sure to remove, save and identify.

If you find a deer tick embedded in skin, I definitely recommend saving the tick and seeking medical attention BEFORE you experience symptoms. There are prophylactic treatments available. I am not one to rush for medicine and love to do things naturally, however this is one instance that I stand behind doxycycline and feel its risks are minimal comparatively.

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5 Easy Immune Boosters for Children

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A couple of posts ago I wrote about the lost art of convalescence. My little kids are going through their developmental time of catching viruses and building their immune systems. At Mira’s 6 month well-check her pediatrician told us to expect about 1 new virus per month and expect fevers of 103 as “normal”. I am a mom who loves home remedies and tries to avoid antibiotics unless we are in a situation where they can not be avoided, so I spend a lot of time learning and trying new things.

As my kids develop their immune systems I have several things I am passionate about and have found great success with. My new favorite thing is cod liver oil. My grandparents always swore by it, I watched my oldest son’s Norwegian family administer it to the kids, and for me, I never quite caught on until reading some incredible information in Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care. This book has several informative chapters on caring for babies and young children through illnesses.

I laugh at myself because I get excited about fat-soluble vitamins and remedies, lol. My five favorites for this season are:

1. Cod liver oil Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K are tremendous for building a healthy immune system. Vitamin A and Vitamin D in adequate doses (so it is truly important to look for a good brand, some commercial brands contain very little Vitamin D) can help to stave off colds, flus, and asthma. Fat-soluble vitamins help with mineral metabolism, cognitive development, intellectual development, and vision. 

When a child runs a fever, the heat and inflammation in the body quickly deplete vitamin A. It is said that a Vitamin A deficiency is why some children have febrile seizures or end up with febrile blindness.

2.Hydration– Staying hydrated is also important, and in the time of a high fever, it is difficult to stay hydrated. Pedialyte and those types of beverages are loaded with crap. I have been mixing up my favorite mineral supplement and having my toddler drink it to stay hydrated. It provides excellent sources of minerals and electrolytes and tastes so yummy. I usually make a glass for myself and just fill his sippy. Babies only need breastmilk or formula.

3. Elderberry Elixir is another super immune booster. I have been interested in elderberry syrups and have researched a lot about elderberry immune-boosting properties. I wasn’t too keen on giving the honey or maple syrups to the little kids and not being able to find where the berries were sourced from was another one of my mind-bogglers, so I was happy to come across this elixir that is farmed in Maine (hubby’s home state), on a biodynamic farm, with a very controlled process.

4. Probiotics— I have blogged and blogged about gut health and probiotics. A healthy gut contains 5-7 pounds of healthy gut bacteria, which secretes vitamins that we absorb, creates anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral substances that fight pathogens and helps us detox and keeps our feel-good chemicals in balance. If our balance gets disrupted then our whole immune system is compromised. A good quality probiotic is vital so that the necessary strains of bacteria survive the digestive tract and juices and can reach the gut to populate and do their job.

5. Outdoor time– Fresh air and sunshine are amazing. 10-30 min per day can work wonders. It supports healthy vitamin d levels. I luckily live in Florida, so our outdoor weather is usually pleasant. However, if you’re in a different climate, appropriate clothing still makes outdoor time possible.

Generally, if it seems like your child is always catching a cold, don’t panic. The advice my pediatrician gave me was that the kids’ immune systems are still developing, and because of that, they are more susceptible to colds and infections. Over time, as long as health is supported with a healthy diet and physical activity their immune systems will catch up and this too shall pass.

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Taking a Pause: The Art of Convalescence

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Cough, cough, sniff, sniff. Those are the sounds that have been traveling through our house the past few days. I have had 2 kids down with a virus, Ezra taking the brunt of it. He has entered preschool a few hours a week this year, and it seems each Friday he comes home with something. This time, the illness truly got my attention and required me to switch my mindset a bit. Recently my focus has been on what to do to care for my sick child when the importance was truly just caring for my sick child.

I’m a great caregiver, in theory. I will calmly make sure all of the logistics are taken care of, however, truly taking time to notice intuitively what my kids needed was missing. My mind fluctuated on everyone’s basic needs, the work I needed to do, and our recent sleep deprivation. Immediately, I went into “fix” mode with them. Fix the symptoms… you know, we have things to do!

I had a little ah-ha when the only thing that could console Ezra was me. I took the time to observe him, both physically and intuitively. What I realized at that moment was that he truly needed time to convalesce. Historically, this was something that was a standard for illnesses. We live in a society now where suppressing symptoms and getting back to “real life” is marketed heavily. We have “quick fixes” for everything. Yes, I believe in being comfortable and will not forgo medical care when necessary. But truly, just riding it out (even if it takes weeks) is often what we really require.

When our bodies are down, and especially when a child is ill, it is important to give space and time to truly heal. Symptoms may subside, but moving back into a hurried pace can keep the immune system weak and allow other illnesses to creep in easily. I have noticed with my kids that very often following a virus, they will have a physical or developmental leap.

The prescription I find the most helpful when we have sick kiddos is quiet time, less stimulation, and TLC. The definition of vitality is the state of being strong and active; energy. The power giving continuance of life, present in all living things. Overstimulation robs children of their vital energy. The very nature of screen time is vitality depleting, so that is something I am very cautious about allowing during illness. If I do allow screen time, we watch very gentle, calming shows. However, quiet play, books, mama cuddles, eucalyptus baths, etc are what I gravitate toward.

For me to nurture and tune into a time of convalescence, I had to release the expectations I have of myself and others and truly invite in a sense of stillness. The slower pace is necessary so the kids can replenish their vitality and do their inner work to heal. These moments are a great time to reevaluate our family rhythm and see what is serving us well and what needs adjusting so that we can all live together harmoniously and with minimal chaos.

The funny thing is, that when I spent a different kind of time with the kids I realized I was way off the mark in recognizing their needs. Ezra needed mama time, Mira needed me to loosen the reigns, and Keenan was squared away (he’s taken a lot of my brainpower lately). Every day is an opportunity to learn and grow and find new awarenesses for sure!

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FYI: Placenta Donation

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I learned and participated in something that I had never heard of until the birth of our daughter last month. I work as a doula and have participated in the birth world for several years, so was quite surprised I never heard of placental donation. I assume that if I haven’t heard of it, there are others out there that are also unaware.

The placenta is the only organ that is grown for a specific use and is released when its job is over. The placenta develops in the uterus and is the fetus’ lifeline, providing nutrients, antibodies, and oxygen to the baby, and removes waste from the baby’s blood.

Many women save their placenta, dehydrate and use as a postpartum supplement. From my research, it can have wonderful benefits. This is not something I have personal experience with, although I have been intrigued. Other women may save their placenta and bury it in a ceremony. There is a definite reverence for this organ.

Since I delivered my children via c-section, I have let all of my placentas go as medical waste. Which is commonly how placentas are discarded. This time was different, and I was given the option of placenta donation. From my research, a donation is only an option if the mother is giving birth via a full-term planned c-section. During vaginal birth, the placenta is exposed to bacteria and the tissue can be damaged.

The mother must pass the required blood tests, so she must be free of certain medical conditions or infectious diseases. A mother of any age can donate as well, and it does not interfere with cord-blood banking. The company that my hospital uses for donation uses the placenta for eye grafts. Up to 100 eye grafts can be done from one placenta. That is giving the gift of sight to a lot of people!

The amnion, or amniotic membrane, is the innermost layer of the placenta, and the portion that is used for donation. It has been used since the early 1900’s in many surgical procedures. Human amniotic membrane has properties very similar to other soft tissues and can be used for many reconstructive surgical procedures such as burns and other wounds, dental procedures, eye surgeries and for joint issues.  In surgery, the amniotic membrane can be used as a foundation material for soft tissue healing, or as a natural biological barrier at the surgical site. The other cool thing about it is that the amnion tissue type does not have to be directly matched with the potential recipient, so it benefits a large population of people.

A quick google search will offer many options for placenta donation. My hospital used Regenerative Biologics, Inc., which seems to service Florida. Many of the websites have forms and contact information so that if you have an interest, you can learn more.

 

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Instant Pot Vegetable Beef Soup

1 lb grass fed stew beef

2 onions, chopped

2 leeks, sliced white and light green parts

6 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/3 head cabbage, shredded

1.5 cups trimmed and cut green beans

2 carrots, sliced into rounds

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 c frozen corn

6 c beef broth

1 can diced tomatoes

Salt/Pepper and any herbs and spices.

1. Sauté beef, onions, leeks and garlic in instant pot, until beef is browned.

2. Add carrots, celery, green beans and cabbage and sauté until veggies start to soften.

3. Season with salt and pepper and any herbs/spices you enjoy.

4. Add broth, tomatoes and corn to pot, stir and set on “soup” setting for 30 min. Quick release when complete.