One of the less-fun things about camping is avoiding and removing ticks from your family and pets. This does not have to be a big deal and can be done quickly and painlessly if you get in the habit of checking.
Many people fear ticks and avoid outdoor activities because of them. Perhaps it’s their vampire-like existence or the fact that many carry Lyme disease, but their not as intimidating as their reputation may seem.
Lyme disease is caused primarily by the smaller deer ticks. They’re about the size of a pin head. The bite area will usually have a rash, sometimes in the shape of a target (red rings). This can occur days after the tick bite, when you’re out of the woods. Symptoms of Lyme disease include flu-like symptoms accompanied by joint and arthritic-type pains. If you have any signs of an infected tick bite, your physician will probably prescribe antibiotics to treat it. The antibiotics work best and most quickly when taken soon after the tick bite.
More often that not, ticks will jump onto your hair, hat, pack or legs as you walk through high grasses and brush. Many of them are so small that they’re hard to feel. They will usually crawl around for several minutes, if not hours, before they bite. Most of the ticks that I remove from myself and others have not bitten yet. When camping, we periodically stop and do quick “tick checks”. This accomplishes two things: One, it catches the little critters while they’re still crawling; and Two, it reduces the fear factor of ticks and shows the kids that they can easily remove them without being afraid.
When removing ticks, it’s important not to yank the tick sharply that the head remains embedded. Leaving part of the tick in can lead to infection. Grasp the tick firmly and pull with steady pressure. Have an alcohol pad ready to clean the bite area and then bandage with first aid cream. As for the tick that you removed, cut it, squeeze it with your multi-pliers, or throw it on the campfire. Ticks are hearty little endoskeleton insects and will not be squished by the heel of your hiking boot.
Now that you know the right way for removing ticks, let’s discuss the many wrong ways. There are many myths out there such as cover the tick with nail polish remover, or Vaseline, or burning it with a match. These are NOT safe ways to remove a tick! These methods can cause infection or a serious burn.
Removing ticks is a necessary evil of enjoying the outdoors. Using bug spray and long-sleeves can help avoid occurrences, but you might still find a few crawling here and there. So, don’t worry…now you know what to do.