Photo: Pablo Calvo / Getty Images
In the middle-of-nowhere North Dakota, whereas mountain climbing a 6-mile part of the enduring Maah Daah Hey path system, I felt a small sting on my ankle. I seemed down and was greeted by a big black bug with a white spot. An quick rush of concern surged by means of me as I noticed what it was—a tick. Did it chunk me? Am I going to get Lyme disease? Did I simply f*ck myself by aimlessly swatting it off, slightly than pulling at it with tweezers like I’ve been informed?
The ideas swirled by means of my head as I attempted to resist a full-blown freakout and my associates reassured me that the tick did not latch. But in all honesty, every of us was a bit on edge: While we anticipated to see some ticks within the space—we had been hiking through the Midwest in spite of everything, the place ticks are prevalent—we had been shocked by the quantity we encountered in just some days. I used to be lucky to solely discover one tick all through our three-day journey, however one hiker discovered 4, one other three, and one other noticed six. I requested one of many native hikers if this many was frequent within the space. “Absolutely not,” he replied. “I expected one of us would find one, but this is unprecedented.”
He’s not incorrect. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sicknesses from mosquito, tick, and flea bites have tripled within the U.S., with greater than 640,000 instances reported from 2004 to 2016. What’s extra: Nine new germs unfold by mosquitoes and ticks had been both found or launched to the U.S. in that point. (Related: Powassan Is a Tick-Borne Virus More Dangerous Than Lyme)
“Over the previous 20 years, we have seen an increase in the number of Lyme disease cases reported annually, and instances have been reported over an increasing geographical area,” says Candice Burns Hoffmann, press officer for the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the CDC. “Some of these changes can be explained by geographic range expansion of the black-legged tick, which spreads Lyme disease bacteria, [as] the number of counties in which [they] have been reported has more than doubled.” Areas which might be notably high-risk for ticks: the higher Midwest, Northeast, and mid-Atlantic. (Related: What You Need to Know About Chronic Lyme Disease)
That’s why it is extra vital than ever to take warning when heading outdoor this summer season. Here’s what you want to find out about ticks, together with the place they’re discovered, how to forestall tick bites, and what to do when you discover one getting a bit too pleasant together with your pores and skin.
What Ticks Look Like—and Where You’re Most Likely to Find Them
As quickly as my associates started recognizing ticks, I noticed that regardless of all of the mountain climbing I’d finished, I’d by no means truly seen one myself. That freaked me out as a result of, nicely, my mother at all times mentioned data is energy. So I took to Google to discover out what a tick actually seemed like. And in fact, the reply is not completely simple.
“The appearance of ticks can differ based on the species,” says Rafal Tokarz, Ph.D., an affiliate analysis scientist at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University and writer of The Everything Guide to Lyme Disease. Some—just like the black-legged or deer tick—can have a black higher half with a brown decrease half, whereas the lone star tick is all brown save for the yellow spot proper in its middle. And there is not at all times only one sort you may run into. “Geographically, there is a lot of overlap of where different ticks are found, and in some places, there are three or more human-biting ticks present,” says Tokarz.
In different phrases, you may’t simply familiarize your self with one form of tick. Check out these photos of different species from the CDC, so you may know what undesirable bugs could also be making an attempt to discover a new dwelling in your pores and skin.
And whereas it could be tempting to veer off the overwhelmed path for that good ‘gram, Timothy J. Sellati, Ph.D., chief scientific officer for the Global Lyme Alliance, says doing so is likely one of the best methods to welcome a tick into your life. “The best way to [avoid a tick bite] when you hike is to walk in the middle of trails, and avoid leaf litter and woodpiles,” he explains. “Don’t lean on rock walls or sit on fallen logs, and avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass. Ticks thrive in damp, cool areas with plenty of shade, which is why large, open meadows receiving full sunlight are less likely areas to find ticks.”
The Best Way to Dress for Avoiding Tick Bites
You might imagine it is NBD to pull on on a regular basis gymnasium attire and hit the dust. But when you’re good about your mountain climbing apparel, you may be much less seemingly to discover a tick on you. Here are a couple of tips consultants say you need to comply with to scale back your possibilities of a tick chunk.
1. Skip the leggings. Yes, there are a ton in your closet, they’re comfy, and so they’re cute. But leggings normally go away part of the ankle uncovered, and cropped variations can cease slightly below the knee, which means your complete decrease leg is open to assault. “Ticks prey on creatures by latching onto them as they brush past tall grass or low plants, and then look for bare skin,” says Janis Reed, Ph.D., an entomologist at Mosquito Squad. Opt for full-length mountain climbing pants as a substitute, and tuck them into your socks so no pores and skin reveals.
2. Wear light-colored garments. Black and navy blue attire could also be flattering, however gentle pastels and neon choices are the higher manner to go, per the CDC. They make ticks and different bugs simpler to spot, so you may get ’em off earlier than they’ll do any actual harm. (PS: Did You Know a Tick Bite Could Make You Allergic to Red Meat?)
3. Shop for permethrin-treated gear. We know: Workout gear can get costly. But the CDC recommends splurging on garments and equipment which have been pre-treated with permethrin, an insecticide that kills bugs on contact, every time attainable (like these Eddie Bauer Freepellent Pants, which even have built-in UPF 50+ solar safety). You can even cowl boots, pants, socks, and tents with merchandise containing 0.5% permethrin, which lasts for a number of washes. (Here’s how to figure out the right products for you.)
4. Put on bug spray… Don’t fall prey to the parable—sure, it is a fable—that bug spray will not assist you keep away from tick bites. It completely will, says Sellati. “You can repel ticks on skin and clothing by using repellents that contain 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin, which can [offer] protection that lasts several hours,” he explains. “Don’t forget to spray your shoes, as ticks can latch onto them and crawl up your leg.”
5. …however do not forget to apply sunscreen first. One factor folks do not typically take into consideration when going by means of a “how to avoid tick bites” guidelines: Sunscreen. But it is an vital part as a result of, when you put it on after bug spray, it could deactivate your repellent. “It’s best to rub in the sunscreen first, let it absorb into the skin, and then apply the repellent on top,” says Sellati. As at all times, rigorously comply with the directions on the product label.
Other Ways to Avoid Tick Bites
Once you have wrapped your outside adventures, it is best to take further precautions to guarantee ticks do not come inside. These are crucial steps to take.
1. Check your garments. The first place ticks go to attempt to sneak onto your pores and skin? Clothes and equipment, like your backpack and boots. If you’ve entry to a dryer, instantly put your garments in and tumble-dry on excessive for at least 15 minutes, says Sellati. If not, a radical inspection is your finest wager, and folds in material, flaps, pockets, and laces ought to all be checked. Spot a tick? Grab it with a tissue and flush it down the bathroom. Don’t attempt to crush it—it is unlikely to work—and undoubtedly do not use your naked palms. (Remember, ticks like uncovered pores and skin.)
2. Check your physique. Just as a result of you have not felt something nibbling in your pores and skin does not imply a tick is not there. “Ticks release a mild anesthetic when they bite, camouflaging their presence and allowing them to stay for extended periods of time without being noticed,” says Reed. Do common self-checks all through your time outdoors, and once you get dwelling, strip to your birthday swimsuit and do a radical look from head to toe, ideally with a hand-held or full-length mirror. Sellati says ticks like to conceal in heat, moist locations the place they’re unlikely to be seen and eliminated, and are sometimes present in or across the ears, stomach button, and armpits, close to the groin, behind the knees, and in your hair—so take further time looking these areas. On high of that, he suggests a bathe inside two hours of ending your hike, if attainable, which can wash off and make it simpler to discover any ticks which may be crawling round.
3. Don’t overlook the pets. Ticks do not discriminate, so make certain your four-legged pal will get a radical inspection, too. A brand new research from Merck Animal Health discovered that one-third of pet homeowners do not give their fur infants common flea and tick medicine, and greater than a 3rd admit they may not establish a tick on their pet. Study up so that you might be assured no undesirable critters are coming into the home.
How to Remove a Tick
Many folks have heard that you simply want to pull a tick straight out—twisting or ripping it off could cause elements of the bug to keep within the pores and skin—and if you do not have a pair of tweezers readily available, it could be tempting to wait till you are dwelling to get it out. That’s an enormous mistake. “If you discover a tick on yourself or your pet, don’t wait for it to leave on its own; remove it immediately. In order for a tick to transmit Lyme disease onto its host successfully, it must stay attached for 36 to 48 hours,” says Reed.
Don’t understand how to take away a tick? “Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible,” says Sellati. “Pull upward with steady, even pressure. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.” (Hand sanitizer can work in a pinch till you may entry cleaning soap and water.)
And on that be aware: It’s an vital reminder to at all times go away the home ready. “You should never go hiking without at least a basic first-aid kit on hand, and that should include fine-tipped tweezers and alcohol to safely remove ticks and sterilize the area where you were bitten,” says Sellati. (REI has a great option for taking on day hikes, BTW.)
What to Do If You Get Bit
“After a tick bite, people should look for an expanding rash around the [bitten area],” says Tokarz. “It doesn’t always appear as a bullseye—most often it doesn’t—[but] a large rash that expands daily is usually indicative of Lyme disease. This is usually accompanied by fever, muscle aches, and overall fatigue.”
If you expertise any of those signs, see a doctor immediately—ideally one who recurrently sees sufferers with tick-borne ailments, as Sellati says Lyme is easy to misdiagnose, and different tick-borne ailments sometimes specific comparable signs. If you do get a rash, take an image of it and measure the diameter, which might help your doctor decide your finest course of remedy.