Hiking and Tick Safety
The warm weather is here, and that means it is time for a walk in the woods. The forest and trails are a relaxing way for parents and kids alike to clear their minds and get back to nature. Unfortunately, the woods may be hiding a surprisingly big little danger: ticks! Read on to learn a bit about hiking and tick safety.
What is the Big Deal About Hiking and Tick Safety?
If you have ever seen a tick, you know how small these insects are. For such a small insect, ticks can be shockingly dangerous. Regardless, we all know how dirty our little ones can get when playing outside – running through the grass, jumping in the leaves, and wandering off the beaten path. Sadly, one bite from these bugs can lead to some serious health complications. One of the most well-known of these is Lyme disease. If not properly treated, Lyme disease can bring lifelong health complications.
Types of Ticks
As for the ticks themselves, there are over 200 varieties in the United States. These bugs look a bit like little spiders and can burrow into a person or pet’s skin. There are two types of these creatures: hard and soft.
Soft ticks typically are found in caves, cabins and on birds. Hard ticks are typically found in the woods, so they are a paramount concern for hiking and tick safety. Depending on the species, these bugs can often live as long as 200 days without food or water. When properly fed, say after a bite, they can live anywhere from two months to two years. Yikes! This is one reason it is important to find a tick as soon as possible.
Where and When to Find Ticks
Now, it isn’t only the hot weather that brings ticks to the party. Believe it or not, hiking and tick safety is something to take seriously all year long. That said, hiking is often when many people end up in the woods. Fun in the sun is great, but this also requires certain precautions.
Typically, ticks live in tall grass, brush, dead leaves and wooded areas. Humans aren’t their only food source, so they can also live on animals. For this reason, dogs and cats should also be frequently checked for ticks. After all, ticks can even be found in your own backyard.
How to Avoid Ticks
Hiking and tick safety begins with careful preparation. First of all, try to avoid walking in bushy, tall grass. Second, be sure to wear the right clothes. Typically, this will mean long pants that can be tucked into your shoes or boots. Long sleeve shirts will help to protect your arms as well.
If you have long hair, pull it back into a ponytail and keep it under a hat. Ticks love to jump into your hair. Finally, use an insect repellant whenever you’ll be walking into a potentially tick-infested area. This has the added benefit of keeping other nasty bugs like mosquitos away!
Check Yourself Immediately When You Get Home
Finally, be sure to thoroughly check yourself, your family members and your pets when you get home. The most important part of tick safety is finding and removing the tick.
Be sure to check any hard-to-reach areas, including:
- the armpits,
- the belly button,
- by the ears,
- behind the knees,
- around the waist and the crotch.
Ticks are rather stealthy, so it will take a keen eye. When it is burrowed, it can be extremely hard to notice them. Some ticks, like a deer tick, can appear as small as a poppy seed. Take a shower as soon after returning home as possible.
If you do notice a tick, WebMD has a helpful article about how to remove the little bugger. Be sure to contact a medical professional if you notice a rash or any unusual marks on the skin in the days following you or your little one’s tick bite.