We’ve all heard of Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, but did you know there are fourteen tickborne diseases that can be transmitted to humans in the United States? That’s a fact that could be used as an excuse to hunker down in the safety of air conditioned retreats like malls, restaurants, movie theaters or the comfort of home. But signs like this one we encountered on a recent hike should not be considered a reason to avoid hiking or biking in wild areas:
Instead, let it be a reminder to take a few simple precautions so you can enjoy spending time in nature.
Wearing repellent is always a good start, but also wearing light colored clothing so you’ll be more likely to notice the poppyseed like spots on your clothing that indicate you’ve come in contact with these nasty critters. It’s also helpful if you can wear long pants, long sleeve shirts and hats to create a barrier between you and the ticks.
While we associate these disease carrying insects with hiking, camping and other activities in the woods, many more people come in contact with ticks in their yards. So don’t forget to regularly check pets and keep your yard free of piles of leaves that provide a moist habitat for ticks.
Recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC):
FIND AND REMOVE TICKS FROM YOUR BODY
Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs.
Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks. (Some research suggests that shorter drying times may also be effective, particularly if the clothing is not wet.)
And if you do find one or more ticks (like we did this week), don’t panic, and don’t rely on any of those old wive’s tales about finger nail polish or hot match tips. Instead, follow the CDC’s guidelines on tick removal:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
- Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.After spending time outdoors, check for ticks.
Get outside, but check for ticks!