5 steps to protecting yourself from tick-borne illnesses

Warmer climes and outdoor times will soon beckon us to lark in parks and tread on trails. Meaning it is once again time to remind ourselves on that dastardly denizen of the woods and weeds, the unen-deer-ing deer tick and its sometimes payload of woe and misery, Lyme disease.

Lyme disease, or as the erudite folks say, Lyme borreliosis is a tick-borne illness that if untreated, symptoms may include loss of the ability to move one or both sides of the face, joint pains, severe headaches with neck stiffness, and so on and such like… thanks, Wikipedia. If you’d like to know the particulars a quick google search will yield volumes of material written by people who know a lot about those things.

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Know thine enemy: ticks prefer humid, moist environments. Areas of wooded, especially areas with dense undergrowth, as well as grassy areas are where they wait in ambush. Frequently check clothes and extremities when hiking through those areas.


Lyme disease in Lore and Legend

Of course, what discussion on Lyme disease would be complete without a little local Connecticut lore, as my home, and the place from which the dread disease derived and departed for points all over, is it’s supposed origin. The lovely coastal community of Old Lyme. The local lore tells us of Plum Island, which is in New York actually and the horrors and intrigue of Lab 257 (insert ominous low orchestral here).

Once upon a time, legend says, the Official Government Department of Devious, Dirty and Dastardly Tricks and Things (DoDDDTT for short), sent some scientists and soldiers there. The scientists to fiddle about with a little of this and a little of that. The soldiers were of course there to encourage enquiring minds to enquire about other things in other places. They even say some of those scientists had lots of experience fiddling about while they were working for this other guy’s DoDDDTT back when they lived in Germany. You know the guy, the one with the funny mustache.

And so. This thing led to that thing, the other thing happened and… you get it… Lyme disease. Though I suppose we should call it “Plum Disease.” Old and East Lyme are such nice communities, why should they get the blame?

It is only a conspiracy theory, if true we can all be grateful that the symptoms don’t multiply causing us to die horribly three days after a tick bite. If not it is a good story.

Steps to take to guard against ticks

Deer Tick life-stages and scale
[/media-credit] Deer Tick life-stages and scale
The real right now thing you need to know is this: It’s bad. You don’t want it. You don’t want anyone else to have it. Even the people you think might deserve it.You can, by following simple steps, eliminate, or at least minimalize your chances of getting it

Tick-proof outdoor habits

  1. Know thine enemy: ticks prefer humid, moist environments. Heavily wooded areas, especially areas with dense undergrowth, as well as grassy areas are where they wait in ambush. Frequently check clothes and extremities when hiking through those areas.
  2. Dress to kill: Light colored clothes that will make a little monster the size of a poppy seed show up clearly will make checking easier. Wear clothes that provide skin coverage. Sure pants tucked into socks looks goofy as hell, but it denies ingress to tiny brown things.
  3. Walk in the light: Seriously. The evil beasts love moisture, need it to survive, they are hiding on the moist underside of leaves and such out of direct sunlight.
  4. Wage chemical warfare: There are no treaty restrictions prohibiting use various agents of lethality. PSA: Read the label and follow the instructions with any pesticide or chemical repellent.
    1. Permethrin: Boots, clothing, camping gear, and whatnot. Not skin. From the ticks perspective, this is a weapon of dastardly design. They basically catch on fire and explode when they touch it. Well, no not really, but the end result is the same, and wouldn’t that be cool if it did? Oh yeah, Put it on stuff. Not skin.
    2. DEET: Use a 20% or more solution on skin, it is a repellent rather than a pesticide. It tells ticks you aren’t tasty.
    3. For the crunchy all natural folks, there are essential oil blends that have been said to work.
  5. Check and Check again: Beyond just checking your clothes periodically on the trail, check yourselves when you get home. Imagine all those little places on your body where you least want a tick to go. Yes… there. That is ticks primary target from the moment they hop aboard. They will settle for any of the cracks, creases, and crevices that the human body affords in abundance. Check your pits, nether regions, waistline.  Check yourself and check your kids. Shower soon after arriving at home.

If you find one attached

It isn’t the end of the world, nor do you have to rush to the ER. Simply remove it. It takes a tick being attached for many hours before it will pass Lyme disease. Simply remove the tick using the appropriate method for its location on your body. Do use an appropriate method. They tend to leave their head behind out of spite if you aren’t careful. Pay attention for any flu like symptoms and seek medical attention if symptoms appear.

[su_box title=”Did you know?” box_color=”#4da4f7″]The life cycle of a deer tick is 2 years. Ticks carrying Lyme disease are typically in their second year.[/su_box]

Be aware

Last year I was hiking with a friend from China, who loved walking outdoors and exploring our forests and parks while he worked here for a short time. We were walking along, and I reminded him. “Make sure you look for ticks.” He looked at me funny and asked: “What is that?” Then he whipped out his dictionary app and had me spell it. After reading for a few minutes, he said “Ahhh. Thank you.” I noticed he started checking kind of often.

Have you any tips or insights into the pesky critters? Please share in a comment below!


Lessons from the Road USA

Lessons from the Road, USA shares the travel adventures of a funny, single, 50-something year-old woman, traveling across the U.S. in a pickup truck. Webster is navigationally challenged and yet strangely addicted to camping sites and critters. She visits monuments of historical or personal significance and meets some fascinating people along the way!

Coming Soon!

Lessons from the Road RV

Join Margaret as she shifts from her tent to a new RV. This book is a must-read for anyone who owns, or is thinking of owning an RV to travel full-time.

Podcasts Featuring Margaret

Get Focused Episode 80

Episode 80: Meet Margaret Webster, author of “Lessons from the Road: USA”

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