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How to Avoid Picking up Ticks

Now that spring has arrived in the Pacific Northwest, more and more people are heading to the great outdoors for hiking and fishing adventures. Unfortunately, spring hiking and camping trips can mean exposure to unwanted hitchhikers – especially ticks.

Ticks are a common occurrence in wooded areas, and taking an outdoor trip means inevitably exposing yourself to them. While a tick bite may not hurt much, ticks are carriers of a number of serious diseases, including Lyme disease. Luckily, there are a number of preventive pest control steps you can take to reduce your chances of picking up one of these nasty pests. The following are some pest management tips for ticks.

Tick Prevention

Preventive pest control for ticks is mostly about thinking ahead. The best pest prevention and control method is to know where you are likely to encounter ticks and either avoid those places or protect yourself before entering them.

Wear protection.

The best way to prevent ticks from attaching to your skin is to cover yourself in a protective barrier by wearing the right kind of clothing. Denim, heavy cloth, rubber and heavy synthetic fabrics are all nearly impossible for ticks to penetrate. If you plan on hiking or camping in a tick-infested area, wear long pants, thick socks and a long-sleeve shirt.

Insect repellents are another popular method of pest prevention and control for ticks. An effective insect repellent will discourage ticks from landing on you by either masking your scent or replacing it with one they find repulsive. Don’t like chemicals? Don’t worry. Many all-natural preventive pest control methods are available, including non-toxic, plant-based insect repellents.

Stick to dry climates.

Ticks love climates with a lot of moisture. Rainforests, marshes, swamps, rivers and lakes are all common breeding grounds for ticks. If you plan on camping in a very wet environment, make sure to pack heavy clothing and wear waterproof pants and boots when hiking.

Alternatively, you stick to a dry climate. Ticks generally don’t populate dry, hot areas, so if you are planning on wearing tank tops and short shorts on your camping trip, stick to the desert.

Watch what you wear.

Before you can remove a tick from your body, you have to be able to find it. Wearing light-colored clothing allows you to quickly spot the dark bodies of ticks, making your pest prevention and control efforts much easier. Once you find them, you can pick them off before they have a chance to bite you.

Check yourself before you infest yourself.

Do a thorough body check when returning from an adventure in tick country. Some ticks will tag along on clothing for a while before latching on to you, and doing a tick check is a great chance to catch them at this stage.

What to Do If You Find One

No matter how careful you are about pest prevention and control, sometimes a tick will slip through the cracks and start munching on you. If that happens, follow these steps for tick removal:

1. Remove it ASAP! The quicker you can remove a tick, the smaller the chance you have of the tick infecting you with one of the diseases it may be carrying.

2. Don’t spray. Ticks are much harder to remove from the skin after they have died, so if you find you have one of these unwanted companions, don’t spray it with insect repellent. This will cause the tick to die while it is still attached to you. Not only is this a disturbing thought, it makes the removal process more annoying.

3. Get it all. Using tweezers, grab the tick by the body, as close to the jaws as possible. Pull it directly out, slowly and firmly. Try to avoid ripping the body off and leaving the head still attached to your skin. You also don’t want to use a match or any sort of lubrication to remove a tick. This can cause the pest to burrow deeper into your skin, and may even kill it.

4. Call Your Doctor. This may sound like an overreaction, but some doctors want you to save the tick after removal so it can be identified and checked for disease. If that’s the case, follow your doctor’s instructions for preserving the specimen.

Ticks can be nasty pests to encounter, but by following the above-mentioned preventive pest control tips, you can enjoy many months of tick-free hiking and camping.

[ photo by: Dustin Ginetz ]

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