It is a well known fact that ticks carry and spread lyme disease to humans, but they are also responsible for infecting humans with a host of other life threatening illnesses. In fact, ticks are the #1 carrier of disease in the U.S. Before they feast on our blood, ticks are small and flat, usually no more than ⅜ of an inch in length. As they take blood from our bodies, they can swell to be the size of a grape – up to 100 times its original size. As they’re taking this enormous amount of blood, their infected saliva is then injected into our bloodstream, spreading harmful pathogens through our bodies.
What makes the tick doubly threatening is how adept they are at latching on to us. Ticks, which are not insects but are actually arthropods, have barbed mouth-parts and in conjunction with the glue-like saliva that it secretes when it latches unto us, it is very difficult to remove a tick once it has taken hold. The safest, most effective way to remove a tick is with sharp tweezers, pulling the tick firmly and directly away from the skin without twisting or turning. Remove any remaining mouthparts with a needle, the same as you would with a splinter. Wash the area and apply an antiseptic. Note the date of the bite, keep an eye out for symptoms and signs of illness, and, if possible, preserve the bug in a jar. This will make the doctor’s job easier to diagnose you if you do, indeed, have to go to the hospital.
Prevention and early detection are essential to staying healthy while spending time outdoors. Contrary to popular belief, ticks don’t jump, fly, or fall from trees; they climb up! If you find a tick on your head, chances are it latched on at your foot and proceeded to climb all the way up your body. Search your body for ticks, immediately after coming indoors. It is recommended that you take a shower or bath within two hours of coming inside, taking the time to examine your whole body. It is also a good idea to check all of your gear and your pets. Ticks will often attach first to outdoor gear and your pets, then attach themselves to humans when they get indoors. If there are any children with you, take the time to check them under their arms, in and around their ears, in their belly button, behind their knees, between their legs, around their waist, and especially in their hair.
Vigilance, prevention, and caution are all that is needed to enjoy time outside again. Yes, ticks are a problem and they will still bite people, but by knowing what to look for and how to remove them safely, you can have more peace of mind on your next camping trip.