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Tick Tips

Related artical, When Biology Pays Off

White tail deer, mother and fawn
Photo © 2004 Jim Jung and licensors.
All rights reserved

Deer Ticks are one of the unintended consequences of a high deer population. As a result Deer Ticks are everywhere and at no time are they more abundant than they are in late July and August. The season's warm nights and hot humid days signal tick eggs to hatch and millions of these tiny little bloodsuckers climb the nearest grass stem or woody twig and patiently wait for a meal to come along. Obviously the best strategy is avoidance. But for those who can't (or, like me, won't) avoid the woods during tick season there are things you can do to minimize your exposure.

Wear long pants and tuck the ends of your pant legs into your socks.

That way any ticks you pick up will stay on the outside of your clothing. Also, tick repellents containing the chemical Deet sprayed over one's clothing are an effective preventative. Deet, however, is potentially dangerous since a relatively large proportion of the population is allergic and/or highly sensitive to the substance when it contacts the skin. A number of deaths have resulted from direct skin contact, so be very careful.... especially with children.

Avoid brushy or overgrown areas of the woods

These are the areas where ticks are most often found in numbers. Carry a stick when hiking through these areas of the forest. Use the stick to lift low hanging or overhanging branches and avoid contacting them directly with your body. Avoid walking or crawling under low vegetation where ticks like to wait for their victims and never lie down on the ground during tick season. Also avoid deer trails whenever possible since these areas are always heavily infested. Avoid tall grass or any other vegetation that brushes up against you while you walk. And never sit on logs, rocks, or any other area that could host a major infestation of freshly hatched (and hungry) ticks.

When hiking take along a roll of duct tape

Yes, duct tape, that wide, silvery, extremely sticky tape you can pick up almost anywhere. Wrapped around your legs, sticky side out, the tape will trap an enormous number of ticks crawling up your legs. Also use it to remove the hordes of small hatchling ticks should they make it to your skin. Patting the sticky side down on the crawling hordes will remove them all in short order easily and painlessly.

Don't linger in the woods.

Go home at once and bathe or shower immediately. Follow up with a visual check and bring the duct tape into play should you find any the bathing missed. For embedded ticks smear them with a generous dab of vaseline and cover with a bandaid. The vaseline will clog their breathing pores and cause them to release their grip on your skin and back out. When you remove the band aid an hour or so later you'll find a dead, unattached tick.

Make certain that all ticks you do pick up are removed within 24 hours of a hike. In doing so you'll have almost no chance of acquiring any tick borne disease since ticks require at least 36 hours of attachment before the disease can be successfully transmitted to their hosts.

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Copyright © 2004 Jim Jung
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