Ugh, I can't stand ticks! They're disgusting. But dealing with them is often part of the package of being out in the wilderness, especially during the spring when they the conditions are just right and they're ready to feast. This season, be prepared to avoid ticks.
But first, a rant:
- I can't stand the way they are so damn ugly.
- I really dislike how you can only kill them by completely obliterating them. (Squeezing them doesn't work. Last time, I literally smashed one apart between two rocks so it would die.)
- I really really dislike how they transmit diseases (especially life-altering Lyme Disease).
- Last one: I hate how you can't feel them crawling on you! Ahhhh!
Ways to avoid ticks
- Stay on the trail
Since ticks are hanging out on leaves, grass, branches ready to hitch a ride feasting on you, try to stay in the middle of the trail away from brush.
- Use repellent
Spray 30% (or higher) DEET on your clothes to repel ticks from even wanting to climb onto you. You can try natural lemon eucalyptus oils or sprays too or go treat your clothes and gear with permethrin. (Here's a great step-by-step on how to apply permethrin to your clothes.)
- Go tick hunting
This means that you check yourself thoroughly ALL OVER your body. Ask someone to help check your backside and areas that you might have a hard time seeing. Because you usually can't tell if a tick is crawling on you, it's a good idea to check yourself each night and when you wake up if you're in a tick-infested area. (Don't forget to check your neck, scalp, and private areas too!)
- Wear light clothing
The dark-colored ticks are easier to spot if your pants/tops/socks are lighter colored. Plus it's cooler when you hike.
- Remove ticks immediately
If you see one on you, don't freak out (but I always do). With tweezers, grab the tick as close to your skin and pull gently and steadily. Don't twist it off, just pull it slowly and directly out. You don't want to aggravate the tick. Once it's out, clean the bite as you would an infection (soap and water) and monitor yourself.
- Have a dog? Be EXTRA THOROUGH
If you're hiking with your dog, you know that s/he's bouncing all around off trail. It's very possible that it's carrying ticks. Check your dog not just for it's sake, but for yours too.
Did you know that author Amy Tan has Lyme Disease transmitted by a tick bite? Her story on Humanthologyis quite compelling.
Beware of ticks! Check yo'self!