Thursday, May 07, 2015

Battling the One Thing that Creeps us out when Hiking

Battling the ONE thing that Creeps us out Hiking

Wherever we go RVing, the RoadAbode Crew love to hike in woodlands, grasslands and forests. Some of our favorite hiking spots are right here in our home state of Pennsylvania. Great marked trails, interesting geological features, and many not too far from the comforts of civilization.
 But one thing will get the whole RoadAbode Crew creeped out. They are quiet, determined and literally will suck the blood out of you. It is waiting in the woods for the right host to saunter by. the hideous appearance is like some thing out of a ghoulish movie, and it can infest even the most proper of lawns. It's not just the vampire-like qualities, but the debilitating diseases they share with you that should really scare you.
This parasite is non discriminatory, attacking your pets and children. It seeks out all types of animals for one thing. Blood. It's offspring start with smaller animals and as they grow, work their way to bigger prey.
I remember as a child one attacked me, attaching itself to my underarm. My father came to the rescue, as he skillfully removed the blood-filled beastie (my blood!) and threw it into the campfire with a victory cry...

NOT "The TICK" ~ that Cute Cartoon Bug of Justice.

Where ticks are found

Ticks live in humid and somewhat damp environments. They hide out in or near woods, underbrush or grassy areas. You may come into contact with ticks during outdoor activities around your home or when walking through leaf litter and near shrubs. Thier life cycle actually leads them to start with smaller animals and work their way up through each change they go thru.

Blacklegged tick By US federal government Center for Disease Control (CDC) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Blacklegged Tick ~ US federal government Center for Disease Control (CDC) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Why ticks are dangerous

Besides the obvious "ick" factor of having something in the same family group as a scorpion or spider feeding off you, there's a high risk of disease. Diseases that you can get from a tick bite include (listed alphabetically):

Anaplasmosis ~ causes fever, headache, chills, and muscle aches.
Babesiosis ~  infects red blood cells, can cause hemolytic anemia
Ehrlichiosis ~ causes Fever, Headache, Chills, Malaise, Muscle pain, Nausea / Vomiting / Diarrhea, Confusion, Conjunctival injection (red eyes), Rash
Lyme disease ~ causes Erythema migrans (EM) or "bull's-eye" rash, Facial or Bell's palsy, Severe headaches and neck stiffness due to meningitis, Pain and swelling in the large joints, Heart palpitations and dizziness and other lingering symptoms even after treatment
Rocky Mountain spotted fever ~ causes Fever, Rash, Headache, Nausea, Vomiting. Abdominal pain, Muscle pain, Lack of appetite, Conjunctival injection (red eyes)
Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI) red, expanding “bull's-eye” lesion 

These are no joke - I have seen first hand what an undetected or untreated tick bite can do to some of my friends. If not cared for right away, the process to get better can be a long one, and draining both physically and mentally.

Attempting to be a less desirable tick target

When the RoadAbode Crew is hiking, we always try to remember to walk in the center of trails in order to avoid contact with ticks. Keep your kids out of the underbrush or piles of leaves, and teach them why it's important. Ticks are on the ground, starting low and crawling up. Ticks can't jump, fly or ninja drop from trees. They are down on the ground and keep crawling up until they find a good spot to hide out and attach. If you are going into a heavily wooded area and into underbrush, wear long pants, and tuck your pant legs into your socks (even though it looks pretty dorky).  Long pants and long sleeves when working or hiking in close underbrush or tall grass is a good way to keep ticks on the outside where they can be seen or get brushed off.
Use a repellent with DEET on skin. Repellents containing 20% or more DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) can protect up to several hours. Always follow the product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, but be sure to avoid the hands, eyes, and mouth. For detailed information about using DEET on children, see recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
There are products to use for dogs as well. Most work for fleas too. Be careful to read the instructions. Some products can be used on dogs, but not other animals. Some doses are by dog size or weight.
There are hikers or workers that are constantly in the woods, or more at risk. These folks use products containing permethrin - which kill ticks - on their clothes. We need to caution we don't use this toxic insecticide ourselves. Though commonly used to treat head lice, it is a strong inorganic chemical, and can induce burning, itching, numbness, rash, redness, stinging, swelling, or tingling if not used properly.  Permethrin sprays should only be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear. The plus - after treatment your gear will remain protected through several washings.

What to do if you find a tick on you

First off, don't panic, but be aware. If the tick is crawling on you, grab the intruder and burn it, douse it rubbing alcohol or cover it completely with a piece of tape. If a tick does latch on, some people have success with putting a just extinguished match on the ticks rear. We have had 100% success on both ourselves and Molly our pup using a special tool - TickEase Tick Remover. It's special design gently (to you) prys the little bugger off so the tick cannot hold on, and pulls it away from your skin. Once off, dispose of the tick as above. Wash the area thoroughly with peroxide,rubbing alcohol or if that is not available at least soap and water. Watch the area for the next few days to week for any signs of rash. Some small redness after extraction is common, but watch for it to grow or not go away.
TickEase Tool
TickEase, A prybar specially made to get a tick to let go.
If you follow the above recommendations and tips, we can't guarantee a tick-free hiking or camping trip. But being knowledgeable and understanding what to do will improve your chances of beating these pests.
Do you have a tick horror story, or how you have vanquished ticks from your camping trips? We'd love to read your stories or solutions in the comments below!

For more information on ticks, check the CDC's Tick Portal

No comments: