With the onset of spring and the beginning of beautiful warm days, parents and kids are enjoying family walks and hikes through the woods. While nature walks are fun and a great opportunity to bond, nature’s playground can still be tricky! Though tiny, ticks are out in force from March through October. So, to avoid being bitten and catching Lyme’s disease, here are some good habits to adopt during these common excursions.
The choice of clothes: If you’ve already chosen your destination and you have a picnic ready, don’t wear your bathing suit to wade through the brambles thinking you’re at the beach. The first barrier against ticks is a wise choice of clothes that you wear during your walks. If you haven’t planned to lie on the ground or crawl around the roots of trees, you’re still not 100% safe. Most ticks attack the legs. If it’s too hot to wear hiking boots especially those tall enough to cover ankles and calves (ideally to minimize ticks biting through), the use of gaiters, (legging like shields) over sturdy protective walking shoes, should work fine. It’s best to wear light colored clothes that cover both arms and legs, so that ticks are easily detected.
Protect uncovered areas: If you don’t have long sleeves, or it’s really too hot, don’t leave your bare arms unprotected. There are repellents against insects you can spray on your skin. The old standby, DEET, works especially well. If you are pregnant or your children are under three years old, ask your pharmacist for advice on choosing a suitable product for everyone.
Inspection after the walk: Immediately after you return home, even before a thorough inspection, it’s ideal to take a shower and change your clothes. To disinfect the clothes, you can toss them in a tumble dryer at a high temperature. This will kill off any lingering ticks. While the shower may allow one or more ticks to fall naturally, a general once over in a mirror is also advisable. Look carefully at your whole body, especially your armpits, eyelids, ears, back of knees, groin, creases of the elbows, neck and scalp. Also be very rigorous with your children.
How to remove a tick: Do you have a tick bite or a tick lodged in your skin? Don’t panic. The bacteria transmitting Lyme disease (Borrelia) takes between twelve and twenty-four hours to infect your body. So you have time to remove the tick with tweezers or a special tick remover you can find in a drugstore. Disinfect the wound with a non-alcoholic antiseptic after removing the bug and make sure you have not left its head under the skin.
Forget about oil, ether or anything else. Some products can cause stress in the tick and make it regurgitate in your body. Yuck! This will speed up an infection if the tick is carrying bacteria. Watch the tick sting for thirty days. If a circular red trace gradually forms and spreads, consult your doctor. Treatment with antibiotics taken quickly can stop the progression of Lyme’s disease just as quickly.
I hope you can enjoy the wonders of the woods and not have pesky ticks following you home!