Spending time outdoors camping and hiking is great for the body and mind…but it can also put you at risk for coming into contact with disease-spreading insects like ticks. Ticks are always around but are particularly active during warmer months (April – September). While ticks are relatively small, they carry a big risk as disease spreaders. In the US alone, ticks can carry more than a dozen different pathogens that are harmful to humans, with the most common being Lyme disease. According to the CDC, it is estimated that 476,000 people may contract Lyme disease in the US each year.
Here’s the good news—the risk of tick exposure shouldn’t keep you from spending time in the great outdoors, but it is important to reduce your risk of exposure and know what to look for should you happen to encounter the pint-sized pests.
We’ve gathered 5 tips for keeping your risk of tick exposure to a minimum.
Consider Treating Clothing with Permethrin
Permethrin spray bonds to fabrics for up to 6 weeks or through 6 washings and can be used on gear, shirts, pants, socks, and shoes. Be sure to use a spray that contains .5% permethrin for maximum benefits.
If you don’t want to treat your clothes yourself, you can purchase outdoor clothes that have already been treated with permethrin. REI carries both the repellant itself and several brands of treated clothing.
Yes, tank tops and shorts make for great summer outfits…but all that exposed skin provides an all-you-can-eat buffet for ticks and other biting insects. Cover up as best you can by wearing loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
When you’re on the trail, tuck your pants into your socks and your shirt tail into the waist of your pants to further limit access to your skin.
Choose Light Colored Clothing
Not only will light colors keep you cooler in warm weather, they make it easier to spot ticks crawling up pants legs or shirt sleeves.
Camp & Hike Smart
Ticks thrive in brushy, wooded areas and tall grass. They also prefer dark, moist environments to sunny and dry areas. Keep this in mind when selecting a place to set up your campsite.
When hiking, try to avoid walking through tall grass and stick to the center of trails to minimize brushing against grasses and brush.
Check Your Body Regularly
Take time to check yourself regularly for ticks. The CDC has a handy graphic to show the (sometimes surprising) spots ticks like to congregate on the human body.
If you find a tick has latched onto your skin, there is no need to panic…though you do want to remove the tick as soon as possible. Once again, the CDC provides excellent step-by-step instruction for safe tick removal.
Although it’s easy to get creeped out by ticks and the risk of being bitten while camping or hiking, there’s no need to let fear keep you from enjoying all the outdoors has to offer. The key is to prepare, take proper precautions while in wooded areas, and to check yourself regularly.
Now get out there, cover up, and enjoy all the outdoors has to offer.
Happy camping and hiking!
CDC – Tick Data & Surveillance