How To Avoid Ticks While Camping

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Ticks are present in many areas across the United States - and the bad news is that research has indicated that disease-bearing ticks continue to spread into new habitats at an alarming rate.

If you are considering a camping trip it is essential to know the dangers that you face from ticks and how to reduce your chances of getting Lyme Disease (which affects about 300,000 people in the U.S. each year) or being infected by the rapidly spreading Heartland virus which is now thought to be rapidly mutating - and there is no known treatment.

My friends are afraid of bears, snakes, and mountain lions.

I am only afraid of one critter in the wild.

A tick bite.

A wildflower in Plano, Texas

The small insects can bite you and you not know it but still infect you with a life-changing disease.

I have a friend who went into the hospital with a blood infection caused by a tick bite he got in his front yard!

Thus please take ticks seriously.

Here are some tips about how you can reduce your chance of being infected.

One of the best ways to avoid ticks is to simply not venture into areas that they favor. Ticks thrive in warm and moist environments. They are found in areas where there is long grass or moist leaf litter. If you are going to be hiking stick to the middle of trails to avoid coming into contact with ticks that may be lurking in the foliage at the edge of trails.

Try to select a camping site that is situated on dry ground that is clear of large amounts of fallen leaves. When you are relaxing at the campsite make use of camping chairs to reduce your contact with the ground.

Take care when selecting what you are going to wear.

Stick to long trousers and shirts and keep everything tucked in.

Ticks can easily get to your skin if your clothing is loose.

There are several lightweight clothing options that will allow you to stay cool and still be tick safe.

If you are not bothered by the fact that you will not look like a fashion model in an outdoor catalog you can take the extra step of duct taping the bottom of your trousers over the tops of your hiking boots or socks.

There are also camping and hiking clothes that have been treated with tick repellants like Permethrin (I wear these), which kills ticks on contact.

There are also kits available at camping and sporting goods stores that will allow you to treat your clothes with Permethrin.

It’s not a great idea to use Permethrin on your skin.

Instead, opt for a stick or spray-on repellant containing at least 20% DEET.

You will need to apply the repellant regularly - and if you are pregnant, consult your doctor before using DEET-based products.

You should talk to park rangers, fishing guides, and other campers or hikers about ticks. They will be happy to point out areas where they know there is a problem with ticks.

If possible shower as soon as you return from a hike. That’s because it’s been shown to reduce the chances of getting Lyme disease if you can shower within two hours of being outdoors. I believe this is because a shower will be the easiest way to do a tick check and not any magical powers of shower gel.

Also, check your whole body for ticks - use a mirror or ask for assistance from someone you trust - it’s essential to check between toes and fingers and even the more ‘intimate’ parts of your body.

And check out any pets that are camping with you. You should be checking every 3 hours at the very least.

Pack some equipment that will help you safely remove ticks. A pair of tweezers, a roll of duct tape, and antiseptic.

Remove any ticks using the tweezers as close to the skin as possible and then treat with antiseptic.

This will drastically reduce your chances of catching Lyme disease which is usually transmitted in 36 hours.

Don’t forget to check your dog for ticks if he or she has been hiking with you.

Ticks do not discriminate and will happily bite any mammal - including our canine friends.

Here are three common mistakes people make when camping in tick season.

The first mistake is not using insect repellant. It is important to wear insect repellant when you suspect ticks are in the area. You should also avoid wearing sweet-smelling lotions and perfumes as these can attract ticks.

The second mistake is not checking for ticks after being in an area where they are present. Ticks can attach themselves to your clothing or skin without you knowing so it is important to check for them regularly.

The third mistake is not knowing how to properly remove a tick. If you do find a tick on your body it is important to remove it correctly. Use a pair of tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull straight up. Do not twist or jerk the tick as this can cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin. After removing the tick, clean the area with soap and water or alcohol.

Another simple tip is to sit in a chair or at a picnic table to avoid picking up ticks that are lurking on the ground.

Finally, don’t forget about your head. Wear a hat to keep ticks off your scalp. I once saw a tick jump off a tree and onto the top of a friend’s head!.

Ticks are most active in the spring and summer months but can be a problem year-round in some areas.

Ticks are pesky creatures and can transmit Lyme disease if not removed correctly. Make sure to check yourself, your loved ones, and your pets regularly for ticks when camping or hiking in tick-infested areas. Use insect repellent, inspect clothing and gear for ticks before entering your campsite, and remove any ticks you find immediately. With a little bit of effort, you can avoid these blood-sucking pests and enjoy your time outdoors.