Whether you're logging in miles on a multi-day backpacking adventure or enjoying a day hike with the family, staying healthy and safe on the trail is always an important factor of any trip. So this year with reports of tick numbers on the rise, especially for those hiking in the northeast, consider taking the precautions listed below to help significantly decrease the risk of tick-borne illnesses. By following these tips, you will be one step ahead and able to enjoy your trips a little more.
1. Wear permethrin based clothing or treat your favorite hiking wear before you head out. Treatments last 6 weeks or 6 laundry washings (whichever comes first) and can be purchased at most outdoor retailers. Don't feel comfortable treating your own clothing & gear? Consider sending it out to InsectShield.com where they will treat it for you.
2. Treat your gear and pack with permethrin. This treatment works well on things like your tents, packs and sleeping bags too. Same rules apply as mentioned above.
3. Consider wearing a lightweight nylon woven long sleeve hiking shirt and long nylon trekking pants. Not only will this help with ticks, but it will also help reduce abrasions from off-trail travel and sunburn at higher exposed elevations.
4. Choose clothing that is bright in color so any possible ticks can be detected quicker.
5. Use insect repellent on your skin. 30% DEET is more than enough for the northeast. Other effective alternatives are Picaridin or Lemon Eucalyptus. Both of these alternatives are about as effective as 30% DEET, without the chemicals that can harm synthetic materials or sensitive skin.
6. Avoid bushwacking in areas during when tick season is at its strongest (May-July).
7. Check for ticks periodically. During breaks of 10 mins or more are a great time to do so while you air your hiking feet out and stop for a snack. If you find one embedded, removing it within 24 hours can help reduce the risk of an illness. Use fine tipped tweezers. Slow, steady, pull.
8. If you are bit, it is good to see a doctor if you start to develop symptoms or even as a precaution. Not everyone gets the red bulls-eye and rings, yet they can still contract Lyme. For additional information check out the links below:
Tick-Borne Illnesses: cdc.gov/ticks/diseases
Tick Identification: tickencounter.org