Monday, March 19, 2012

Survival Monday: How to protect yourself against ticks

"Dan, there's a spider on your hat."

Dan threw his baseball cap to the ground, and Katie bent down to pick it up. There, on the underside of the brim, was a small black-and-red bug. It wasn't a spider. It was a deer tick.

For all my outdoor adventuring on the east coast, I never encountered a tick until I spent a week in Shenandoah National Park last summer. In one day, we brushed a lone-star tick off my hiking pants and pulled a deer tick off of ARA's shin. 

Now, on this St. Patrick's Day hike near Garrison, N.Y., my friends and I suddenly realized that we should be checking for ticks. In fact, we should do this after spending time in any wooded or grassy area, as ticks have been reported in many Manhattan and outer borough parks

Only deer ticks (picture) are known to carry the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease, but lone-star (picture) and dog ticks (picture) can pose other health risks.

To protect yourself against ticks, the New York Department of Health recommends the following:

  • Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily.
  • Wear enclosed shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and shirt into pants.
  • Check clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors and check again once indoors.
  • Consider using insect repellent. Follow label directions.
  • Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails. Avoid contacting vegetation.
  • Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls.
  • Keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening.
  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after going indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that may be on you.
  • Do a final, full-body tick check at the end of the day (of yourself, children, and pets), and remove ticks promptly.

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