Dealing with ticks while hiking
Posted on: April 21, 2016
They’re out there – waiting for you. Creeping along on the ground, mixed among the leaves. Climbing blades of grass, hanging out, waiting for a host. They’re unsightly, clingy, and a health nuisance. They’re ticks.
Tiny in stature, ticks present a big problem for those who love the outdoors because they can carry diseases, such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Lyme disease. Blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are the most common type spreading Lyme disease from host to host, according to the website tickencounter.org.
To avoid tick bites, and how to treat them, here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and tickencounter.org:
Ticks await new hosts by clinging onto vegetation such as shrubs, grass or leaves, and then latching on as the host goes by. Recommendation: Always walk in the center of a trail.
Ticks do not “fall from the trees” or “hop” onto your head, as some people believe. Ticks usually work their way up from the ground or below knee level. Recommendation: Wear a long-sleeve shirt, long pants and socks. It’s much easier to spot crawling ticks if the clothing is light-colored. If you are so inclined, tuck your pants into your socks to prevent ticks from crawling up the inside of the pants.
There are insect repellents on the market that are effective against ticks. Recommendation: Use repellents with at least 20 percent DEET on your skin. Even more effective, use permethrin on your clothing. Permethrin kills ticks on contact, and it can be safely applied to footwear, socks, clothing, even your gear, with long-lasting effects. Parents should apply such products to children, avoiding the child’s hands, eyes and mouth.
Checking for ticks
Check all body parts, using a mirror as necessary, but focus on these areas: behind the knee, around the waistband, under the arms, around and inside ears, belly button, hair on head, and between the legs. Ticks do not wash off in the shower. Remember to check all pets and gear as well. Put clothes in a dryer on high heat and tumble for one hour to kill any unsighted ticks.
Removal and treatment
Don’t try to remove a tick with your bare hands. Instead, use tweezers, grabbing the tick as close to the skin as possible; try to grasp its mouth, not the body. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick, as this could cause the mouthparts to break off and remain under the skin. Do not squeeze the body, as this could inject toxins.
After removal, disinfect the bite area, clean the area with antiseptic, cover with a bandage and wash hands. Save the tick in a sealable plastic bag for later identification if you become ill. You can send a photo of your tick to “tickspotters” at tickencounter.org and they will try to identify the species of tick for you. Blacklegged ticks attached for less than 24 hours are not likely to have transmitted any infection, according to tickencounter.org.
Watch for signs of illness, such as a rash or fever, and see a doctor if these develop.
Bill Jackson’s sells tick protection products for your skin, clothing and gear, including permethrin products. Come in to talk to our staff about protecting yourself in the woods.
By Rich Kenda