Hiking in tick country
Ticks and Hiking
It is a common misconception that ticks cannot live at high elevations. It turns out that ticks don’t particularly mind high altitudes. With all of the diseases associated with tick bites, you really need to be careful when you are in tick country.
I spend my summers usually in south east Idaho. I have taken countless naps in tall grass at high altitudes and have only ever had one tick on me in the mountains. I think I am just plain lucky.
The threat and dangers of ticks cannot be ignored. Lyme disease in the east is a significant problem, but out in the western US it is very limited. Here in the Rockies we have Rocky Mountain Spotted fever. It is caused by the bacteria Rickettsia rickettsii. Only about 1 in 1,000 wood and dog ticks carry the bacteria. The Tick we need to be concerned with in the Rockies, is the wood tick. These ticks sit in the brush and vegetation on the edges of well used trails. They hold tightly onto a leaf or branch with their back feet, and outstretch their front feet. This is so that they can latch on easily, when a victim passes by. At this point they will slowly and stealthily move about your body until they find a nice cozy place to feed.
What to do if you find a tick on your body
The ticks seem to prefer warm moist areas of the body They like armpits, groin areas, and especially the hairline on the back of your neck. If you find a tick don’t just panic and pull it out. Find a pair of tweezers and gently grab as close to the entry point of your skin as you can. Make sure you don’t squeeze the body of the tick. They will not likely come out very easily. Once the tick is removed wash your hands and destroy the tick. Make sure you do not try to crush the tick with your bare hands to kill it. There are documented cases of rocky mountain spotted fever being transmitted from such actions.
There are many things you can do to give you the upper hand against ticks. Here are a few:
— Wear long Pants and long sleeves
—Tuck your pant legs into your socks.
—Put potentially tick infested clothes into the dryer on high heat for 15 minutes or more.
— Spray yourself with deet, (30% or less concentration on children) this is the most effective repellent available.
— Use Permethrin this is an insecticide that will kill ticks. It can be applied to your clothing.
— Do a tick check when you get home! If you remove a tick within 20 hours of its attachment you will be very unlikely to get spotted fever.
— Consider wearing lighter colored clothing, Ticks will be much easier to see.
Colorado State University Extension entomologists and professors, bioagricultural sciences and pest management.
A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.