The Great Outdoors: Ticks are No Joke

stopticks_456pxSometimes, I’m asked about what gives me cause for concern when I’m in the outdoors.

Most think that bears, rattlesnakes or other hunters are things to be feared when afield, but honestly, they don’t even make my list.

What does, and it’s at the top, are deer ticks and the Lyme disease they sometimes carry.

I have had it three times, but fortunately, we’re living in a time when it’s diagnosed rather quickly and treated fairly easily.

When Lyme disease started appearing locally more than 25 years ago, many people didn’t know what they were afflicted with, and there were virtually no doctors that knew how to treat it.

Many of my friends had it and it was only through some local grassroots groups and other individuals that they knew where to go for help. 

And without a doubt, the Internet helped people self-diagnose when doctors had no idea what was causing their problems.

But times have changed and most physicians are well aware of the symptoms and treatment of the disease.

The fact that I have had Lyme disease three times in the last six years doesn’t bother me because I was lucky enough to know what was happening.

After the flu-like symptoms and fatigue set in, I didn’t hesitate to get it checked out, get it diagnosed and get treatment.

I considered getting it just part of spending so much time outdoors and I won’t trade that for anything.

Each time I was diagnosed, I was prescribed 10 days of Doxycycline, the antibiotic that kills Lyme. Each time it did the trick.

For some, how many days you take the antibiotic depends on different things, such as your age, physical condition or even the individual decision of the doctor.

What I do recommend is that once those symptoms appear, don’t waste any time getting it checked and treated. It doesn’t matter if you go to a hospital emergency room, express service or free clinic.

And even if you have to pay out of your own pocket to get treated, it’s well worth every dollar. Living and dealing with Lyme Disease is not anything to do considering how easily it can be cured.

Common symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and sometimes a skin rash. But if left untreated the infection can spread to the joints, the heart and nervous system.

Now, this doesn’t mean I am careless when it comes to trying to prevent getting it.

I have chosen to not wear certain repellents that could keep more ticks off me, but that’s a choice for every person to make on their own.

DEET and Permethrin are the most effective tick repellents.

DEET can be applied to skin or clothing. Permethrin should not be applied directly to the skin, but it can be applied to your clothes, such as boots, pants, socks and even tents.

Parents, don’t let your kids apply this stuff. Do it for them and follow the instructions.

Ticks are most active in warm, wet weather. But it needs to be pretty cold before you won’t encounter them much in the woods.

This summer, I encountered very few when outdoors. But very recently, when my dog Brandi and I were out for an extended walk on an area Game Lands, I was busy killing them as they clung to my jeans. It had rained the night before and although the morning was very cool, walking in the long grass and brush made us good targets for the ticks. 

I check my pants legs every so often and use the tip of my car key to squash them. 

For Brandi, if I see them on her, I get them, but usually they are easier to see once we are back in the Jeep and I can see them crawling on her.

For canines, there are a few different tick and flea repellents that work, but I prefer K9 Advantix. It’s not cheap, but it is well worth it. 

Deer hunters should also pay particular attention if they bag one. Obviously, deer are a major carrier of the ticks.

Before I get back in the Jeep, I check myself. After arriving home, I remove my outer clothing, then place it and the rest of my clothes in a hot dryer for at least 30 minutes. If there are any ticks on the clothes, that will kill them.

It’s best to shower after arriving home, but if not, then do so as soon as you can. Even on our recent journey and after taking all these precautions, I still had one tick on me working to get embedded before I got showered.

It’s good to carry tick removers with you or at least have them at home. 

There are different types of removers, but hands down, the Pro-Tick Remedy remover is the best. They only cost $5 and the kit comes with a small brochure on tick information.

The Centers for Disease Control website at cdc.gov has a great section on dealing with ticks. It’s definitely worth checking out.

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“The Great Outdoors,” sponsored by the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors, is a weekly blog by exploreClarion.com’s Scott Shindledecker. Plan your next outdoor adventure at VisitPAGO.com or call (814) 849-5197 for more information.


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