Hiking is a great way to enjoy nature, especially now that the weather is warming up after that crazy long winter we had. However, warm weather means insects are starting to come out of the woodwork — including ticks. Tick bites are annoying, and these little bugs often end up in awkward spots, not to mention the fact that they carry Lyme disease. If you’re heading out into the wilderness this year, what can you do to avoid ticks on your hike?
The easiest way to avoid ticks is to make it impossible for them to reach your skin. They aren’t going to attach to you through socks or pants. If you know you’re going to be in tick country, wear long sleeves, pants and boots. Tuck in your shirt and tuck the cuffs of your pants into your socks. Even a hat with a neck flap can help discourage the little buggers.
Light-colored fabric is your best choice for these hikes. Not only will it keep you cooler, but it also makes it easier to see if any ticks are looking for warm, dark places to feed.
Use Bug Spray
Bug spray is a great way to keep ticks off you, but what kind should you use?
Skip the DEET for this one. It works really well for mosquitoes and other biting insects, but it doesn’t help keep ticks away. For that, you’re going to want bug sprays with the active ingredient permethrin. It is more toxic than DEET, so make sure you keep it away from your face and hands, but it works well if you spray your boots, jeans and lower extremities.
You can even invest in permethrin-infused clothing that helps repel ticks without having to spray the pesticide on your skin.
Avoid Their Habitat
Even if you’re out in tick country, there are still steps you can take to avoid them. Ticks prefer tall grass and shrubs. They’re hard to avoid if you’re trudging through uncleared woods or unused trails that are overgrown, but if you want to avoid ticks as much as possible, stick to the beaten path.
You can keep them out of your yard by mowing your grass and removing any brush that could serve as a tick home.
Know the Symptoms
If you do get bitten by a tick, it is important to remove it quickly and be aware of the symptoms of Lyme disease.
First, keep an eye on the bite location. If it starts to develop a red target around the bite, that’s a good indicator that your tick was carrying the Lyme bacteria. It doesn’t develop for everyone, though. Other symptoms include:
- Fever or chills
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Extreme fatigue
Lyme disease can be easily treated with antibiotics if it is caught early. If it is left untreated, it can cause joint pain and other issues, including problems with your heart and nervous system. Being aware of the symptoms can help you treat Lyme disease before things get worse.
Ticks are annoying, but they can be easily avoided. Stay out of their habitat wherever possible and make it harder for them to find your skin, and you’ll be good to go for all your hikes this summer.
Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington