Thursday, July 3, 2014

Ticks suck! Stay calm, avoid, and remove

mom & baby tick on a finger
How sweet - mom & baby tick...
photo: Connecticut Agricultural Research Station
All you Northern Hemisphere outdoor lovers this summer should be pleased that the killer qualities of mosquitos tend to be in the world's tropical zones (though not exclusively!). However, in these colder climates, staying healthy means watching out for ticks, the North's equivalent of disease-carrying nuisance. Yoo hoo. I promise this is the last yucky insect post, but it's important.

Ticks carry several dangerous pathogens, including Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium responsible for Lyme disease, but they need to bite you and fill up on your blood (nice) before transmitting the pathogen to you. This is something you can and want to avoid.

If you run into a tick or even a nest of ticks, sticking strong tape on your clothes or skin, then stripping it off can remove many teeny ticks. If it has dug in, you can have a tick on you for hours before it finds a good spot to dig in, so don't panic if you find one. If you check your skin periodically, you are likely to get it off you before it feeds. Even if a tick (or mosquito, if you're in tropics) doesn't carry the disease, you'll just feel a lot better knowing you didn't become lunch.

This video from University of Manitoba show exceedingly clearly how to remove a dug-in tick without breaking off mouth parts still attached to you -- our leading lady has bravely allowed a real live tick to embed in her arm, so have a look!

This page from Runners World also has a great video on how to remove a tick properly and some pointers on avoiding and dealing with tick bites, but since its code wouldn't embed, you'll have to click here to view it.

From the Hiking Dude blog, here are some tips on avoiding and preventing bites:
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants (trousers!). Light-weight clothes, such as Buzz-Off pieces, can keep most of your skin cool and protected.
  • Wear light-colored clothes so you can see insects while they are still on the outside of your clothes.
  • Tuck pants into socks. This keeps ticks and other crawlies from getting inside your pants legs.
  • Wear a hat for both sun protection and keeping insects out of your hair.
  • Wear an insect screen hat, jacket, or full body suit. These look kinda dorky, but they really keep the bugs away from your body if swarms are particularly fierce.
  • After your hike, run, walk, or frolic in a vegetated place, take a shower and check all over your body for ticks. It's the small ones that are hardest to spot.

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