Important steps to avoid tick bites, and Lyme disease, for a safer summer.
It’s the little ones that you have to watch out for. Case in point, an insect the size of a poppy seed: the tick. With summer here, the risk of these tiny bugs—and the diseases they carry—is hitting an apex.
Anyone who spends time outside is at risk of contact with infected ticks. They are most active in warm weather, so the risk of infection is greatest from April to September. Blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, can transmit Lyme disease. About 300,000 cases are diagnosed each year, and the rates are increasing over time. The diagnosis rate has tripled over the past two decades, according to Global Lyme Alliance (GLA), a nonprofit working to advance knowledge and awareness of the condition.
Although the disease is not usually life-threatening, “believing that it’s not going to impact you is probably the worse type of thought process that someone can have,” Scott Santarella, CEO of GLA, said.
Ticks wait for hosts by resting on tips of grasses and shrubs. When a person or animal brushes against the tick, it climbs aboard. They slowly suck the host’s blood for days.
If detected early, most cases of Lyme disease can be effectively treated with antibiotics. If not, the disease can be debilitating, with potential to affect the brain, heart and other parts of the nervous system. This severe condition is known as chronic Lyme disease.
Thankfully, there are precautions that backpackers can take to protect against ticks. Follow these tips to stay safe from ticks and Lyme disease.
Conduct a full body check every evening. Ticks often hide in body folds, like underarms, in/around ears, inside belly button, behind knees, between legs or on the scalp.
Set up camp in less grassy or woody areas.
Use repellent on clothing and tent floor.
Try to keep the body covered by wearing pants (most effective if tucked into socks), a hat and insect shields.
Wear plain clothes that are light, so ticks are visible if they’re crawling on you.
Always carry tweezers.
If a tick is found, use tweezers to grip the head, slowly remove and thoroughly wash the infected area. Go to the doctor for a Lyme disease test.
This article, “Lyme Disease is Scary. Here’s How to Avoid It,” first appeared in Backpacker magazine.
It’s time for summer camp! Here are 6 easy tips for tick safety and Lyme disease prevention this season.
As staffers, parents and kids prepare for another memorable summer at camp, there is one important detail that must not escape our attention – doing everything possible to ensure that children are protected from the blacklegged ticks that transmit Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne illness in the U.S., with more than 329,000 new cases every year. These tiny ticks, no larger than a poppy seed, are active all year round, but they’re out in force during the summer months. Unsurprisingly, children are at particular risk for tick bites, especially as they spend time outdoors at camp. Unfortunately, these “nymphs” are so tiny, they’re often difficult to spot.
So, here are some suggestions to help protect campers and staff from tick-borne diseases:
Know where ticks live. Ticks thrive in shady, wooded areas, taller grasses and leaf piles. When you plan outdoor activities, avoid having kids lean against tree trunks, sit on grass or on fallen logs. Ask campers to stay in the middle of hiking paths to avoid brushing against foliage and long grasses.
Recommend tick-repellent clothing. While children are at camp, it is strongly recommended they wear clothing treated with permethrin, an insecticide that repels and kills ticks and mosquitos on contact. Its formula is safe and EPA-approved, and can be used on clothing worn by children. Parents can spray it on their child’s clothes at home or can purchase pre-treated clothing and gear with the Insect Shield label from retailers such as LL Bean or REI. Parents can also send clothing directly to Insect Shield to be treated.
Don’t forget to spray shoes. Since most ticks crawl onto people from the ground, spraying closed-toe footwear with permethrin is one of the best defenses against ticks. (One study found that those with treated shoes had 74% fewer tick bites that those with untreated shoes).
Make sure campers use repellent on exposed skin. Studies show that EPA-approved repellents containing 20%-30% DEET, 20% Picaridin or 30% natural Lemon Eucalyptus oil are the most effective.
Do full body tick checks. Tick bites are painless so it’s important for campers to perform regular tick checks after being outdoors and at night before bedtime. Teach campers to pay particular attention to areas between the toes, behind the knees and ears, armpits, groin, belly button, neck, hair and scalp.
Know what symptoms to look for. Camp nurses and counselors should look for flu-like symptoms following a tick bite. Staff should also be sure to check smaller children for ticks and signs of Lyme.