Story by Tom P

It’s camping time. Hiking time. Paddling time. Biking time. Picnic time. And tick time. This season so far the bloodsuckers are in plague proportions north to south, east to west and can prove ruinous to your health in a big way. Take the necessary precautions before heading out, and by all means inspect yourself when the day is done. You don’t want one of these disease-spreading vampires attached for long.

I don’t mind spiders, ants, yellow jackets, wasps and hornets, and bees. By paying a little attention and granting some healthy respect, bad encounters can usually be avoided.  Not so with dog (wood) ticks and deer (black-legged) ticks.  Even gnats, mosquitos, deer flies and the dreaded greenheads, which are due to appear in about a week or two, can be held at bay with proper attire and a good bug dope.

But ticks? However these relatives to spiders manage to do it, they will oftentimes bypass what one would normally consider reasonable precautions, find an extra warm spot on your carcass like your navel, armpit, and the private parts between the legs, and then sink the jaws. The scalp is another favorite chew toy.

Undetected and in about 24 hours after starting to feed, the bacteria that can cause life-altering maladies such as Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Fever, and Ehrlichiosis, begin getting released into the bloodstream. An even more sinister and sometimes fatal disease, babesiosis, can also infect the host if the tick carries that particular bacterium.

Lyme receives the majority of the press about the dangers of being bitten by ticks, and justifiably so as it is the most prevalent. The aforementioned diseases are just as debilitating, though. The telltale red bullseye rash of a Lyme infection is cause to immediately get to doctor. A splash of a red rash is sometimes an indicator of an ehrlichiosis, babesiosis or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever tick-borne infusion.

But there is the rare time a rash does not develop. The physical symptoms will become readily apparent, these in the forms of lethargy, joint pain and muscle aches, dizziness and sometimes nausea and diarrhea. Again, get to a doctor as soon as possible.

The adage about an ounce of prevention is, or should be, the mantra of those heading outdoors. Even brushing a leg against a bit of trailside greenery when cycling or hiking can result in a tick or ticks hitching a ride. Ditto when paddling and coming in contact with overhead vegetation.

Dressing in light colored clothing and tucking pant legs into white socks gives a visual advantage when looking for any ticks that might have gained a purchase. There are various clothing sprays available that repel and/or prove fatal to the bloodsuckers if they are exposed for several minutes. The magic ingredient is Permethrin, and it is meant to be used on clothing, not bare skin. One brand, Sawyer, is especially popular, and treated garments, according to the company, can be laundered six times and still provide an effective block not only to ticks but those nasty chiggers as well. From this corner, I never let clothing go more than three wash cycles before they are sprayed again.

One thing: after applying any Permethrin product, allow the clothing to dry thoroughly.

For bare skin, the likes of Deep Woods Off with 25% DEET will deter ticks and chiggers, but if going to be in bloodsucker territory all day, a second application may sometimes be necessary later in the day.

Upon inspection, if you find that a tick has latched on, use tweezers and grip the tick as close to where the head is in the skin as possible and gently pull. Wash the bite site with warm soapy water.

Tweezers specially designed for tick removal, Tick Ease, is readily available.

Figger the Chigger: Ticks can make you sick. Chiggers will make you insane! These super tiny mites are found throughout the woods and fields of southern New Jersey, in most of the places were ticks hang out, and they are especially fond of ferns. They bite and burrow, and the itching sensation, especially if a bunch get “under your skin”, can be so intense as to make you want to light yourself on fire! Yeah, that bad. The same precautions and sprays for ticks will also work on these hideous critters. If you are unfortunate enough to serve as a digging site, apply calamine lotion to help relieve the itching. We found the Soldier’s Choice “Chiggaway” to be very good at alleviating the itching.

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