How About A Tick-Free Outdoor Experience?

By: Chris Spinozzi           Posted on: 04.14.2016

Did you know ticks are the leading carriers of diseases to humans in the United States, second only to mosquitoes worldwide? If summer day camp or family camp trips are your thing, it doesn’t help that the definition of “camp-out” is usually defined by lots of wooded areas with plenty of grass and foliage to prosper.

Despite what you may think, ticks do not die off in the winter months. Since ticks live in tall grasses, leaf litter, shrubs and trees, they are protected from the cold temperatures. If the mite does not find a tick-friendly host by winter they may continue to search for a blood feast throughout the colder months. FACT: Ticks continue to feast whenever the temperature is above 35 degrees.

So what are ticks you ask – besides super-gross? Ticks are arachnids, which is a relative of the spider. They only feed on blood and can stay attached to their host for days or a week to finish their meal unlike mosquitoes who are quick-in and -out feeders. So what’s the harm in a long dinner plan? Ticks also transmit diseases while blood feeding. Different species of human-biting ticks are associated with specific disease-causing pathogens –the most common human biter in the United States is the deer tick.

Here are 10 essential tick facts you should know:

  1. All ticks crawl up (think protection from the ground up).
  2. All ticks come in small, medium and large sizes.
  3. Ticks can be active even in winter.
  4. Ticks carry a variety of disease-causing microbes – that’s a fancy word for “germs.”
  5. Only deer ticks transmit Lyme disease bacteria.
  6. For most tick-borne diseases, you have at least 24-hours to find and remove a feeding tick before it transmits an infection.
  7. Some ticks can be hard to see or feel—deer ticks look like a poppy seed on your skin.
  8. The easiest and safest way to remove a tick is with a pointy tweezer.
  9. Tick repellent clothing with permethrin is best for preventing tick bites.
  10. Tick bites and tick-borne diseases are preventable.

So how do you get them off of you? To safely remove a tick from an attached area, first disinfect the area with an alcohol swab – it also makes the tick mad. Next, using a pointy tweezer, grab the tick “head” as close to the skin as possible and simply pull straight out. Remember to disinfect the bite site again after pulling the tick out.

It’s a good idea to keep the tick and write down the time it was removed for testing purposes. You can easily keep and label the tick on a piece of masking tape. Prompt removal and testing is crucial to the prevention of disease transmission. Be on the lookout for symptoms such as a red, circular rash around the bite, headache and fatigue, pain in joints and muscles and flu-like symptoms, which may point to Lyme disease.

Despite their tiny size, there are several ways to prevent or reduce tick encounters. Get to know the varieties of ticks in the area and plan activities accordingly.

Tick habitats can vary greatly depending on your outdoor space. These little guys can populate leaf litter while others crawl onto higher vegetation to latch onto their hosts. Shady edges can be spooky for humans, but are favorite spots for ticks to hang out. Avoiding critter country, especially in a camp environment can be tough, so look for well-maintained paths or walkways whenever possible. Group tick checks should also be performed routinely throughout the day – – don’t forget the belly button!

Humans can use DEET repellent to stop these pesky insects, but it will only slow them down for a period of time and must be reapplied just like sunscreen. But if you’re in tick territory A LOT – consider buying clothes made with permethrin, a chemical that ticks despise! There are also soak-kits available so you can treat your own clothes.

As you plan your next camp experience, be sure to take precautions for a safe and healthy outdoor experience in any season!

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