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Watch for Ticks and Lyme Disease During Hiking Season

As the seasons begin to change, and the autumn brings cooler temperatures, many people will hit the hiking trails. There is something about being out in nature with the trees all around, and the smell of fresh air, that just brings tranquility. Most hikers take little precaution to think of all the things that could go wrong, they just focus on the journey ahead. However, there is one little bug that can merely destroy your love of hiking and the effects can linger for months afterward.

Ticks Carry Bacterium

Hiking-300x225The tick is one of the greatest risks that a hiker will face. These small insects have the ability to crawl in boots, up pant legs or down a shirt, and you may never know you have been bitten. The tick carries a bacterium that causes Lyme disease. The first case was introduced in 1986, and since this day record number of people have been diagnosed and treated. In about sixty to eighty percent of all instances, the tick bite area will develop a bullseye rash. This is usually the sign that the tick was carrying Lyme bacteria and should be a cause for concern. However, just because there is no rash available doesn’t mean that there is no reason for alarm. Remember, about twenty percent of all bite victims will develop no rash.

Lyme disease can affect anyone. If you are in a grassy and wooded area, your chances of exposure are greater. Ticks are most active from May through August. The deer tick, which is the size of a poppy seed, seems to be large carriers of the bacterium. As long as the temperatures are above freezing, the ticks will still be active. The younger ticks, which are called nymphs, are the ones to watch out for. They can crawl on your body without being noticed. They are most active during the summer months, but by August through November they are full-sized. Both a full size and a nymph tick can transmit Lyme disease. Deer ticks are found all over the country.

Noticing the Signs of Lyme Disease

Not every tick is infected with Lyme disease bacteria. These ticks become infected when they feed off of smaller animals that were also infected. The disease is spread when a tick bites and remains attached for a significant period. It typically takes about thirty-six hours for the bacteria to transfer. Thankfully, Lyme disease doesn’t spread from one person to another. The symptoms of Lyme disease can appear within three days after exposure, or it can take up to 30 days to see any real signs.

Bullseye_Lyme_Disease_RashThe most common symptoms with Lyme disease include the following: general malaise, chills, body aches, headaches, stiffness, fatigue, enlarged glands, headache, and fever. It is important to get treatment early on to avoid any further complications. If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause further problems in the body, and the progression can be brutal. During severe cases or untreated Lyme disease, the following can occur: numbness in the extremities, facial paralysis, debilitating fatigue, painful arthritis, swelling joints, and central nervous system issues. These problems can continue for months or even years after the bite. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that responds well to antibiotic treatment. However, once you have had this disease, it is possible to get it again. The body doesn’t build up immunity to the bacteria.

Preventing a Tick Bite

The best way to avoid any of these problems is to stay out of harm’s way. Consequently, that is not always possible. Ticks love to live in grass and bushes and don’t typically rise any more than two feet off the ground. They love the woods and any old stones lying around. They cannot drop from the air or jump or fly onto your skin; they only crawl. Once they make contact with your skin, they move upward to find a secure place to feed.

When hiking, make sure to wear clothing that is light-colored. This will help you to spot ticks quickly. Wear shoes that are enclosed, as well as long pants and shirts. Make sure to tuck the pant legs into the socks and the shirt into the pants. While outdoors, be sure to check clothes and any exposed skin frequently. When done hiking, is sure to check all over for any signs of ticks. The smaller ticks can be the size of a poppy seed; you may need to double check to make sure there are none. By making a few changes to your hiking apparel, you can ensure that your hiking trip is tick bite free.

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