Imagine that after the best hike of your life you arrive home to find that a bug has latched onto you and burrowed its head deep into your body.
You start to feel stiff, a headache comes on, a rash starts developing and you might also experience nausea and muscle pain. This isn't just any bug — you've been bitten by a tick.
Ticks are dangerous and can easily go unseen due to their small, almost imperceptible bites. They carry various diseases and can cause serious health issues if left unchecked for long. April to September is the worst times for ticks, especially in heavily wooded areas, so now is a prime time to refresh your knowledge of these sneaky insects.
How to best avoid ticks
Avoid heavily wooded areas, tall grass or areas where there are a lot of dry leaves on the ground. If you like hiking in the woods, staying in the middle of the trail is advisable as is keeping out of contact with stray branches and leaves where ticks can fall on you.
Use insect repellant that is at least 20 percent DEET. Also, treating your clothes with permethrin is helpful. Generously apply it to all clothing and gear you might use on your hiking or camping trip, or buy clothes and gear that are commercially pretreated.
How to find ticks
The best way to find a hiding tick is to bathe or shower immediately after your hike or trip. Because ticks are small, they can easily crawl down shirts, pants, socks and so on in search of a secluded dark space to call home. Don't be shy about using a mirror to check everywhere possible. Just because you can't see it doesn't mean a tick isn't there.
Don't forget about your gear. It is common for ticks to fall in or on tents, backpacks or other items, and then crawl out in a car or trailer and latch onto you later. Check your gear as soon as possible, and wash it thoroughly. If you brought a pet with you, check your pet for ticks as well. Ticks love to hide in human and animal hair and are easy to miss on quick examination.
One last tip for killing ticks is to wash your gear in hot water, and tumble dry on the high heat setting.
For more advice, watch this quick two-minute video on performing a tick-check.
What to do if you have been bitten
If you find a tick that has latched on, do not panic. Most ticks, when found promptly, are not a great risk and are easy to remove. All you need is a pair of tweezers.
First, take the tweezers and press against your skin, with the tweezers around where the tick head is. Apply pressure on the head of the tick and firmly pull straight out. Do not twist or bend the tweezers, as this could cause the body of the tick to fall off, and the head to stay latched. If the body breaks off, press down firmly on your skin, and pull straight out on the tick's head. Be sure to remove the entire tick.
After you have removed the tick, first dispose of it by submerging it in rubbing alcohol, or by placing it in a sealed bag, wrapping it in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Don't be timid, as these are resilient little insects who will live on if given the opportunity.
Once the tick has been terminated, wash the affected area. Soap and water is fine, and rubbing alcohol works too. If you find a tick and develop a rash, aches, pains, a headache, or nausea, you need to see a doctor right away. Ticks carry a host of diseases, like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, so the earlier a tick is discovered and removed, the better.
Whether you think you’ve suffered a tick bite or have another medical question, the experts at Central Maine Medical Center can help. Known for providing safe, reliable, high-quality health care for every patient, every day, CMMC prides itself on a commitment to compassion and service. To learn more, visit www.cmmc.org.