Tackle those sneaky pests of summer
You have to take the good with the bad in the great outdoors. During the spring and summer, the bad includes blood-sucking ticks.
Beautiful places and fun adventures are topics I’d rather write about, but every so often I feel obligated to discuss very unpleasant living things that aren’t nice to us.
Right now ticks are out in force, hiding in the tall grass and leaf litter, waiting for their next meal—and some of them can carry bad diseases. I’ve been bitten about a million times since I was a boy and nothing has happened to me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t wind up with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or some other tick-borne disease, especially if I’m not prepared.
The American dog tick, the lone star tick, and the blacklegged tick have the potential to carry disease.
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The blacklegged tick, commonly called the deer tick, can carry Lyme disease, which, if left untreated, can lead to heart, nervous system, and joint problems, usually beginning with the characteristic bull’s-eye rash around the bite site. Deer ticks are primarily found in the northeastern and upper midwestern U.S., but they are in Kentucky. The problem with these ticks is their tiny size, making them difficult to see. An adult female is the size of a poppy seed, a male even smaller, and the nymph is no larger than the head of a pin.
The dog tick is a potential carrier of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, characterized by muscle pain, fever, headache, vomiting, abdominal pain, and very rarely death if untreated after the first few days of symptoms.
The lone star tick can produce flu-like symptoms, severe fever, muscle pain, and fatigue.
It’s important to check yourself when you get back to camp or the car after hiking, especially if you’ve wandered off the trail—and check the dog, too. When you get home, check yourself again all over, and I mean all over, by using a hand-held mirror to see all areas. If you find one, pull it out with tweezers as close to the skin as possible.
Ticks usually begin their blood-sucking journey on your boots and ankles. The Centers for Disease Control suggest tucking your pants in your socks to block them from the skin. I do even more by wrapping duct tape around the bottom of my pant legs and socks for a tick-proof barrier.
Most often tick bites result in an itchy red spot and that’s it. However, in the warm months it’s a good idea to expect the best but prepare for the worst.