How To Prevent Lyme Disease When Hiking
Hiking is a recreational pastime loved by many, and there’s no better feeling than heading out to explore some corner of the world, near or far, with nothing more than your backpacking backpack and a days supply of water by your side.
There are, however, few things guaranteed to make you feel more squeamish than ticks. Even those of you well used to challenging hiking conditions will no doubt do whatever is necessary to prevent the opportunity for an engorged tick to attach itself to your body unceremoniously.
With experts predicting a tick explosion, isn’t it time you brushed up on tick prevention and protection?
Ticks Transmit Diseases
There are plenty of varieties of a tick, but luckily there aren’t that many who bite and transmit disease to people. Of those that do, like the deer tick, Lyme disease is one of the most common conditions they carry.
Lyme Disease Can Lead To Longterm And Even Lifelong Issues
Lyme disease, or to give it its full name, Borrelia Burgdorferi, is actually spread by the deer tick and has to be one of most feared outcomes of a tick bite due to its potentially chronic longterm symptoms.
While it can be treated quickly and successfully with a simple cause of antibiotics, left undiagnosed, Lyme disease can lead to lifelong issues.
The main problem with detecting Lyme disease is diagnosing the symptoms in the first place. They can range from a fever and headache to extreme fatigue and a visible skin rash. Unfortunately, in the regions where deer tick infestation is prevalent, 1 in every 2 female deer ticks will actually be carrying Lyme disease so exercising caution is recommended.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
As always, prevention is better than cure, so let’s take a look at 10 Ways To Prevent Lyme Disease When Hiking. The first 48 hours of an infected tick bite are critical but protecting yourself in the first instance is even more advisable.
Protecting Yourself From Tick Bites
1. Daily Inspection
If you are hiking in an area that’s known for tick infestation, then you need to be checking your entire body regularly and at least once a day as an absolute minimum. Preferably, whenever you backpack through a forest or densely covered area of brush, you should routinely check your entire body. We’re talking your hairline, in and around the ears, under the arms and the back of the knees, inside your belly button and also between your legs. These areas are particular hot spots for ticks to latch onto as they hunker down to feast on your tasty blood.
Despite common misconceptions, ticks don’t jump and fly around randomly, in the hope that they’ll find something to gorge on. Instead, they use their sophisticated built-in carbon dioxide sensor to sense the proximity of mammals. Waiting patiently for a potential host to come into their vicinity before pouncing and latching on to a warm area to begin their bottomless brunch! Buttocks are a particular sweet spot and favorite of ticks so always check your pants and waistline.
2. Invest In A Good Insect Repellent
Don’t even think about heading off on a hike without first spraying yourself adequately with an appropriate insect repellent. Whether you go for DEET, Picaridin or prefer to keep it more natural with an alternative solution like Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. It pays to ensure that no exposed body parts are left unprotected.
3. Spray Your Backpack And Clothes And Not Just Yourself
Before heading off on your hike, whether your base is a campsite or you are setting off in the car from home, it’s recommendable to spray Permethrin. This is a highly effective insecticide that works to prevent mosquitos and ticks as well as black flies, but it won’t cause any harm to humans or dogs. It can be used on clothes, backpacks, sleeping bags and other camping equipment to detract insects from settling and it’s even effective on clothes after several cycles in the washing machine.
4. Fully Educate Yourself Of The Risks In The Region Where You’re Going To Be Hiking
Make sure you do your research. If you’re headed to unfamiliar territory or planning on trying out a new route or region, check all the reported hiking conditions, read any trip and incident reports online and make sure that you are forewarned and therefore forearmed against the dangers from tick infestations.
5. Do All You Can To Minimize Your Exposure To Ticks
Sounds like a no brainer but it needs to be reinforced. Exercise sound common sense and best judgment when hiking by avoiding areas with particularly tall grass, dense, bushy overgrowth, or heavily wooded areas. Try and hike wherever possible through the center, not the perimeter of a trail and never sit directly on the ground to take a well-earned rest if you are currently in an aggressively populated area for ticks.
6. Wear Light-Colored Clothing
The lighter colored clothing you wear, the more visible any ticks will be that are crawling over you. Don’t wear shorts if you are hiking through an area that’s susceptible to disease-carrying ticks. Instead, go for long pants and ensure that they are adequately tucked into your socks and walking shoes to prevent ticks from crawling up your legs. Another hot spot is the waistband so again, tuck your shirt firmly into your pants to deter ticks from entering there.
7. Carry Tweezers Or A Tick Removal Tool With You
You can invest in a tick removal tool or just pack a pair of tweezers with you. They’re highly effective at removing ticks.
8. Check Any Gear You Took With You As Soon As You Get Back To Base
Ticks have a nasty habit of attaching themselves to your gear as well as your pets, so when you do get back to camp, or home if you’ve just been out hiking for the day, do a thorough inspection to reduce the likelihood of any off-trail latching. They’re resilient critters, so you don’t want to spoil all your hard work and vigilance by falling at the final hurdle.
9. Throw All Your Clothes Into A Hot Dryer For 10 Minutes
Remove your clothing and throw it into a hot dryer in you have one. Ticks desiccate in the dryer, but they have an amazing ability to survive a cycle in the washing machine. So blast them with heat first before you then go on to wash all your clothing.
10. Jump Into The Shower As Soon As Possible And Do A Final Inspection For Any Ticks
You can’t beat the sensation of a long, refreshing shower after a satisfying day out hiking. It’s an excellent idea to shower as quickly as you can, especially if you’ve spent the day outdoors. The quicker you’re able to wash, the sooner you can be sure that the risk of tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease has been eliminated.
Don’t forget to do a final inspection of those hot spots we mentioned earlier! Pay particular attention to your hairline, in and around the ears, under your armpits, the back of your knees, inside your belly button and also between your legs.
With these 10 tired and tested ways to prevent ticks from latching on when you are hiking, you should be able to avoid Lyme disease successfully.