Tick Safety for Outdoor Summer Programming

Summer days are upon us and we all want to get active outdoors. The benefits to exercising and playing outside are outstanding for mental and physical health, however, everyone needs to be extremely vigilant about ticks. Black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are the only kind of tick that carry Lyme disease, transmitting the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. The number of bites from ticks that are infected are on a rapid rise. Lyme disease is in the news everywhere you look and for good reason. There are constant warnings about the danger and prevalence of Lyme disease. What can we do? Staying away from heavily wooded areas is the number one recommended way to avoid picking up ticks, but that is just not always an option for those of us who enjoy being outside to be active. There are plenty of simple ways to stay safe while still being able to enjoy the outdoors.

Ticks are a threat year-round, however, they are particularly dangerous in the spring when they are nymphs, very small and young. When ticks are nymphs they can be as small as a pin-head, easily missed. The Center for Disease Control states that infected deer ticks need to be latched for about 36 hours or more to transmit disease. It is a good idea to try and have ticks removed well before then.

What can you do to reduce your risk for Lyme disease?

  • When you are hiking on our beautiful Southern West Virginia trails you can avoid exposure by sticking to the center of the trail.  Avoid brushing against leaves and tall grasses, where ticks are typically waiting for a ride.
  • You can prevent exposure outdoors by wearing long clothing that is lightly colored. This protects your skin but also makes the dark ticks more visible against the lighter colors.
  • The CDC has a recommended list of effective insect repellents that can help in prevention. This is a very good idea as it also helps avoid bites from mosquitoes that also carry numerous diseases. There are many products on the market that work including natural ingredients that have been proven effective such as lemon and eucalyptus.
  • When you go indoors you should shower and do a thorough tick investigation. Common areas for ticks include elastic waist band areas, spots behind the knees, behind the ears, armpits and anywhere else easily missed. Parents and appropriate guardians need to be thorough in helping children check for ticks.
  • You can also throw your clothing into a hot dryer for ten minutes to kill any missed ticks. If you find a tick on your body remove it close to the skin with a tweezers and dispose of it in a way that it can’t escape and crawl back to people. Flushing ticks down the toilet is one strong choice.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Sometimes a tick can be missed and so it is important to be aware of the symptoms of Lyme disease. In many cases, but not all, there will be a red bulls-eye rash with a white center that can appear a few days post-bite. Other symptoms include headache, fever, chills, and severe exhaustion. If you suspect that you may have been exposed, it is important to go to your doctor and let her/him know where you have been and what your symptoms are.

Be Tick Aware

When you are getting out with Active Southern West Virginia you can’t check participants for ticks in any personal ways, but you should encourage each other how to prevent tick exposure and how to check post-programming. One of our local National Park Rangers, Joseph Whelan says, “Lyme disease really is not a joke and it is the reality of living in this part of the United States. Any time you go outside, or into the woods, you need to check for ticks and learn how to remove them properly. We all have a tendency to get lazy, but you have to be vigilant.” Communicating tick-safety protocols and awareness is a part of risk-management and leadership that Community Captains will offer Active Southern West Virginia participants. If you would like to learn more about Lyme disease we recommend using the Center for Disease Control as a reliable resource: https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/.

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