How to Avoid Ticks While Hiking
Ticks are external parasites in the arachnid family which suck the blood of small and large mammals for sustenance. Although it is the nature of ticks to suck, not all ticks carry diseases. Ticks are kind of like an eight legged yellow school bus; their first stop might be an infected rat, where the tick picks up a pathogen through the rat’s blood. That pathogen may then be dropped off at the next stop: a healthy dog. The pathogen can travel through the tick’s spit and mix with the dog’s blood.
Blacklegged Tick / Deer Tick
Brown Dog Tick
It's important to know which ticks live in your area, and what diseases they might carry.
American Dog Tick
Geographic Location: East of the Rocky Mountains and specific areas of the Pacific Coast
Diseases: Rocky Mountain spotted Fever, tularemia
Black Legged Tick or Deer Tick
Geographic Location: Northeastern and upper midwestern U.S.
Diseases: anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Lyme disease
Brown Dog Tick
Geographic Location: Everywhere in the U.S.
Diseases: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Gulf Coast Tick
Geographic Location: Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico
Lone Star Tick
Geographic Location: Southeastern and Eastern United States
Diseases: ehrlichiosis, tularemia, STARI
Rocky Mountain Wood Tick
Geographic Location: Rocky Mountain States
Diseases: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, tularemia
Western Blacklegged Tick
Geographic Location: Pacific Coast
Diseases: anaplasmosis, Lyme disease
Ticks are most active during the warmer, wetter months, so be on the lookout during the spring and summer. Ticks will wait for their next host (you, or your pet) on high grass or brush so that they can cling to any large mammal that happens to walk by.
To avoid ticks:
- walk around fields or meadows instead of through them
- stay in the center of the trail
- use repellents such as DEET and Permethrin
- wear long sleeves and long pants tucked into your socks
More creative ways to avoid donating your blood to a tick:
- Duct Tape your pant legs so that ticks cannot crawl up them
- wear light clothing so that you can see ticks crawling on them before they bite you
- wear clothing that has been pre-treated with tick repellent
Hopefully you have successfully avoided ticks if you have taken even a few of these precautions, but you should always do a tick check when you return from your outdoor adventure.
1) Place all clothing in the dryer on high heat. This will kill any ticks lurking in the folds of your clothes.
2) Check any other gear you brought with you, such as a backpack.
3) If someone you trust is available, ask them to check your hair and back for ticks.
4) Use a mirror to check everywhere else on your body for ticks.
Disposing of a Tick
What happens if you find a tick? I suppose if you find a tick that has not bitten you, you could let it go. Personally, I like to dispose of them in any way most convenient! However, this is easier said than done. For instance, many people flush them down the toilet, but I have heard that flushed ticks often survive.
- If you are outside and you find a tick, find one large rock and one smaller, pointier rock and squish the tick between them.
- If you have access to a plastic baggie, you could contain them in that.
- Place it in tape and place it in the trash. It can’t move...
- Hold the tick in a pair of tweezers and burn it with a match.
- Place it in rubbing alcohol.
- I have heard of people microwaving the tick to hear it pop... I think this is a bit excessive.
Do not dispose of a tick that has bitten you. Place it in a baggie or in tape so that you can save it and bring it to the doctor to be tested if you begin to notice any symptoms. Now that you are fully prepared to prevent and destroy ticks, enjoy your outdoor adventure with ease of mind!