Dealing with Ticks

May is one of my favorite months. Weekends are filled with fly fishing, turkey hunting, and finding fiddleheads and morel mushrooms in the outdoors, and with all those adventures it also means ticks.

According to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Tick Lab, May is peak season for deer ticks. Sitting in hardwoods turkey hunting means you’re going to get ticks on you, but that doesn’t mean you have to get bit. Since ticks are here to stay, we have to learn how to deal with them. The old saying, “the best defense is a good offense” couldn’t be truer when it comes to ticks.

Each season, in addition to my turkey hunting clothing and gear, I designate two pairs of jeans, socks, shoes/boots and t-shirts as my adventure gear that get treated with permethrin. Hang the garments outside and with plenty of ventilation to avoid inhalation, give them a good spray and leave to dry. Cover entire garment, but concentrate on the neckline and hem of the shirt, and the waistline and ankles of the pants. The treatment lasts for 6 weeks of sun exposure, or 6 washings. The manufacturer recommends storing out of sunlight to preserve the treatment. It’s important to know that you only treat clothing and gear with permethrin, and never spray it on your skin.

In addition to permethrin, a good deet or picaridin spray used on exposed skin is essential, not just for ticks, but all the other biting insects out there. According to Consumer Reports, “products containing 25 to 30 percent deet or 20 percent picaridin typically provide at least several hours of protection, and any more than that and you’re increasing your exposure without improving the repellency.” It’s recommended that you wash insect repellent off once indoors, or at least before bedtime.

I often find ticks at my ankles, my waist and my neck. To reduce chances of getting bitten, I do the following:

  • Once dressed, wrap pant legs snuggly around ankles and pull socks over pants.
  • Wear boots at least shin height so that pants stay tucked in socks.
  • Layer clothing. I wear a tank top under my t-shirt. The tank is tucked in and the treated t-shirt untucked.
  • Wear long hair in a braid or bun if possible. I have found that a pony-tail allows for hitchhikers more easily.

If you are in and out of your vehicle throughout the day, do a quick tick check before climbing back in. At the end of the day, a tick check is necessary. Just like muddy boots, leave your tick clothes at the door. Check clothing over before putting them into a gear bag for the next use, or place in the washing machine if it’s time for a wash.  Inspect for ticks, paying attention to hairline, arm pits, back of legs, and the groin area. For those with long hair, I recommend brushing your hair and really feeling over the scalp for hidden ticks. If possible, use the buddy system and have someone help you check since it’s easy to miss tiny ticks.

Remember to keep your pets treated and to check them before letting them onto furniture or onto your bed. On more than one occasion, I’ve found a tick on my dog’s face or I’ve awoke with a tick on me that wasn’t there before I went to bed.

If you do find a tick attached, remove it as soon as possible; the longer a tick stays attached, the greater the risk is for developing Lyme disease or one of a number conditions no one wants. If you develop a rash or ring around the bite area, or feel ill, call your doctor to see if you need treatment.

A regimen of prevention will reduce your chances of getting bitten, and will ease your concerns when it’s time to get out there. There are too many adventures to be had, and I’m not about to let ticks take away my time in the outdoors.  Just remember, it won’t be long before blackflies, midges, mosquitoes, horse flies, bees, hornets and brown-tail moths are here, so what’s a little tick?

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