Given the number of non-hikers that ask me about ticks and Lyme disease, it appears that either the awareness of tick-borne illness or it’s territorial spread are increasing, or both. According to the CDC, cases of Lyme disease are concentrated in the United States, with northern California. Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Wisconsin accounting for about 90% of all cases. Lyme also occurs in other parts of the world, particularly those with large deer populations and grasslands, such as the Scottish Highlands.
There are lots of excellent sources of information on the web about how to identify ticks, how to remove ticks, how to identify Lyme rashes and other symptoms of Lyme and about it’s treatment. It is important for you to read, learn, practice and implement these techniques.
The axe I want to grind here is on prevention. You can avoid a lot of grief and anxiety by changing your hiking habits and clothing selection.
For example, I was just out in the garage this morning, spraying my hiking clothes with Permethrin, as a deterrent against ticks, black flies and mosquitoes bites. Permethrin is the active ingredient on Insect Shield and Buzz-Off clothing. It is an insecticide that kills bugs that land on clothing treated with it, and not simply a repellent like DEET. I used this same strategy last year, in addition to wearing lightly colored long pants and shirts, and it worked quite well. I was also able to avoid applying DEET to my skin, but for a handful of occasions, all year long.
There was a time in my life when I swore I would avoid wearing long pants while hiking. In truth, wearing long pants and shirts in summer and high heat, does take some getting used to, but on the whole it is worth it. I’m a convert.
There are other preventive things you can do to reduce your exposure to ticks like wearing a hat, staying out of long grass, staying on cleared paths and trails, and tucking your pants into your socks. If you hike with a pet, it is also important to defend them against contracting Lyme or acting as a carrier of ticks into your home. Check with your vet to see what tick control products or collars they recommend.