Hiking is one of the most easy-going and enjoyable sports that all people can participate in. However, due to the hiking environment, it is not always safe, especially you have to cope with the little problem from nature as you immerse yourself in – the ticks.
Ticks are common all through the countries, and a lot of hiking routes are the habitats of different species of ticks. Therefore, learning how to avoid ticks while hiking is super useful if you want to take on this hobby.
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What You Need To Know: Different Types Of Ticks
There are a whole lot of ticks, and not all are the same. Different types of ticks can be vectors or vessels for bacteria and disease, so learning how to identify them will help you to deal with the bite better.
One of the most common types of ticks is deer ticks, also known as the black-legged tick, but the latter name can be used to call another variant. Usually, deer ticks can be found in eastern and northern parts of the midwest of the U.S., and sometimes in the southeast of Canada too.
Naturally, the color of deer ticks is black, but when fed, the abdomen of these ticks turns grayish-blue. Its name comes from the fact that the frequent hosts of this type of ticks are the white-tailed deer, but also it can hang on human skin too.
The size of deer ticks is quite small, and they prefer to be hidden, so it’s hard to find their bites and them when they cling onto you. However, this is one of the most dangerous types since they are the vector of different illnesses that can be passed on to humans, including Lyme disease.
There are variations in the colors of deer tick bites, from red, purple to brown, depending on your skin tone. The deer ticks saliva contains an anesthetic, so it can bite and feed onto your skin without any pain. But soon after, you will feel discomfort at the tick bites.
In general, when hiking, avoid thick forest areas with tall-growing grass and the mammal wildlife habitat, as well as damp and humid jungle areas. These are where deer ticks often live and are ready to feed on you anytime soon.
Learn about deer tick here:
Brown Dog Tick
Brown dog ticks are a little bit different since their usual hosts are dogs, but they won’t refuse to attach to humans too. As their name indicated, this type of tick has a brown color, but it can turn gray-blue when fed too.
When brown dog ticks mature, it will have 8 legs with slightly oval and flatted shape and without any antenna. You can find brown dog ticks pretty much everywhere throughout the country, and even though they appear on domestic dogs, the hiking tracks can be their residence too.
They rarely bite but still are the vector of spotted fever that humans are vulnerable to. The bite of brown dog ticks is quite the same as other kinds, taking a reddish oval bump shape and quite hard to catch at first sight.
They can cause diseases on your pet, especially dogs. To identify the tick-borne illness on your pets, you can check if they have a fever, sudden weight loss, or lameness.
Learn about brown dog tick here:
Gulf Coast Tick
On the coastal regions, especially the Atlantic coast, hiking tracks can be filled with gulf coast ticks. Further inland, hikers in Oklahoma should be wary of this kind of ticks. They are also the vector of spotted fevers and several more diseases.
Gold coastal ticks are small and flattened, with light yellowish-brown color and eight legs. You can spot some other white patterns on their back to distinguish them from other types.
The bites of gulf coast ticks are similar to a small red pimple. The aftereffect of the bite can be delayed up to 10 days, and you may experience headaches, mild rashes all over the body, and fever. These are flu-like symptoms, so you should go to the doctor to check.
Learn about the gulf coast tick here:
Lone Star Tick
Next is the lone star ticks, a pretty name for a vector of many tick-borne illnesses. These types of ticks appear in the eastern parts of the U.S. and Mexico, and it has such an intriguing look. Lone star ticks have a round abdomen with a reddish-brown color and a white dot right in the middle, hence its name.
The lone star tick bites are also hard to feel with the anesthetic saliva, and they are slowly fed, which can cling onto the host for a whole week for blood. They are the vectors for many illnesses, including monocytotropic ehrlichiosis and southern tick-associated rash illness.
The tick bites look absolutely horrendous, with large deep bites accompanied by a red ring of rash. These ones are super dangerous since they can transmit the rare Heartland virus, which until now has no effective treatment.
Learn about lone star tick here:
Rocky Mountain Wood Tick
If you frequently hike in the Rocky Mountains or in the northwest U.S. and southwest Canada, beware of the Rocky Mountain wood ticks. This type of tick can transmit several diseases that can take down the healthiest person, namely Colorado tick fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and tularemia.
Unlike other relatives, Rocky Mountain wood ticks bear a white-and-blackish-brown appearance, with a shorter and more plum oval abdomen. They often live in grassland near the wood, so you better watch out on your hike.
The bite of Rocky Mountain wood ticks is often small and deep, and the bite area can escalate into infection quickly. One thing you should know is that the bite can cause Colorado tick fever with flu-like symptoms. The fever lasts shortly, but since there is no treatment, you will have to suffer.
Learn about Rocky Mountain wood tick here:
American Dog Tick
Another vector of the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is the American dog tick, the ones that you can find in the eastern part of North America and some other states such as California, Massachusetts, Virginia, Georgia, and Florida.
The American dog tick is quite a big type, with adult ticks that can reach up to an inch in length. They have a reddish-brown color and some white patterns on their back.
The bite of these ticks takes the shape of a small round bite, with deep holes where they bite their tubes and pump in anesthetic to blur the pain and feed on the host. These ticks can bite and suck for several hours, and the symptom of the bite can be delayed for a few days.
Learn about American dog tick here:
How To Avoid Ticks While Hiking
Now that you know all about the most common types of ticks and their potential threat let’s learn how to keep them away from you on the hiking track. For tick prevention, you can follow these simple steps:
Choose your hiking location
The easiest thing to do for tick prevention is to not make contact with them first. You should choose the well-beaten hiking track, and don’t stray into the bushy forest. Moreover, stay away from the places with high-grown grass and littering leaves on the ground, where ticks usually live.
Prepare for tick repellent clothing.
You should wear it properly when you go hiking and try to limit the area of exposed skin. The recommendation for hiking is to wear long, boot-tucked hiking trousers and a top garment with long sleeves. The thickness of the clothing should also be good enough not to let the ticks bite through.
Insect repellent can help.
Not only using insect repellent on yourself, but you should spray them on the tents and other equipment that you bring along, especially when you go for an overnight hike. For exposed skin areas, the insect repellent effectiveness should be between 20% to 30% of DEET.
However, don’t let your eyes and mouths make contact with the insect repellent for health safety. Moreover, you can spray insect repellent onto your camp, tent, and clothing before going on the hike. You can use insect repellent with citronella to increase the effect.
For hiking, you can check out these tips to avoid ticks:
How To Remove Ticks
Unfortunately, everyone shares the fair chance of getting bit by ticks, however hard you prepared to avoid ticks. In these cases, you should learn how to safely separate these biting insects from your skin and reduce the pain and damage that you take.
Prepare the tools
First, you should never touch the ticks directly and pull upward to shake them off – doing that can tear off the bite, causing pain and larger wounds. Moreover, making direct contact with ticks can cause allergic symptoms too. So, you need tools to detach them from the bite area.
Small loop or hooked removal tools are the most common tools, and they are available everywhere. In case you don’t have them, a fine-tipped tweezer or thin-nosed tweezers can make do.
You can use cotton with a loop to pull the ticks away too. For caution, wear a pair of the glove to avoid touching the tick directly.
Find the bite area and the tick
Next, try to locate where the tick has bitten you. If you feel pain and irritation anywhere on your body, you can check these places. However, some tick bites are painless; you may need to strip yourself in front of a mirror or ask for other people’s help to find the tick.
The bite area can be anywhere, from the armpit to the belly button. Since the ticks are small, take a thorough and slow check to locate them all.
Remove the tick gently
In any case, don’t touch or abruptly handle the tick with force. Wear gloves and use the tweezers to pick them up. Place the tweezer head near their mouths, where they attach to your skin and slowly pull upward. There will be small resistance, but try to be as gentle as possible.
Never squeeze the belly of the tick since you can risk popping the insect out and get their body liquid on yourself and catch the diseases. Check carefully to see if the tick is totally removed from your skin, as sometimes their mouthpart can still dig onto the skin.
Don’t kill them off or throw them into the trash bin right away; you will need them later for identification. As different ticks transmit different illnesses, it’s good to know beforehand what you may get into.
Now you should go for a wash with warm water and soap and focus on your hand and bite area to eliminate all the harmful bacteria. You can get an antibiotic after removal to prevent infection and help the skin heal.
Take a visit to the doctor if needed
If you are not sure that all the ticks have been removed or experienced strange symptoms, arrange a session with a doctor or expertise clinic right away. Early medical treatment can help you to recover faster and with less pain.
You can learn how to remove the tick in this video:
Tick Bites Treatment – How To Do It?
In case you want to treat yourself at home, you can follow these below step to make sure that your skin where the bite occurred won’t get infected and heal fast:
Watch the tick bite for at least a week
After removing the tick, you still need to make sure that your health is not threatened by watching your body’s reaction. If, after a week, no unusual symptom happens, you are probably fine.
However, the incubation of several diseases can come up to a month, so you should expand the watching time to make sure that you will be fine. Better caution is a good thing to do.
Go to the doctor if you experience these symptoms:
In case your health worsens, and you go through these severe symptoms, you must seek out medical help right away. these symptoms indicated you may have been transmitted disease from the bite:
A rash is a common reaction from tick allergy, but if you get a full-body rash, it’s time you pay a visit to your doctor. Other symptoms include headache, muscle pain, nausea, neck stiffness, loss of strength, high fever, sudden chills, and swollen lymph nodes.
If there is no severe symptom, you can use some types of medical substances to disinfect and help the skin to heal. Clean the wound with soap or rubbing alcohol right after tick removal, and keep the wound dry.
You can apply antibiotic cream or take antibiotic pills to prevent infection. For itching sensation, you can try Benadryl compounds to relieve the irritation.
For first-aid and treatment, you can check this out:
Common Tick-Borne Diseases
There are several tick-borne diseases that you may catch, but not all are fatal. However, you should at least be prepared to treat these:
The number one spot for these diseases is Lyme disease. Caused by a variety of tick types, this is a bacteria that damage your nervous system. Also, your eyes, heart, liver, and joints may also suffer.
This is a disease that has delayed symptoms and only shows after a week or two. The bacteria will make you feel headaches, chills, pain in the muscle, and even fever.
Colorado Tick Fever
For Colorado-based ticks, they may be the vector of this fever. The fever is accompanied by a rash, and white blood cell drop, later can strain your heart and cause bleeding.
Though rare, the Heartland Virus has been transmitted by ticks onto humans quite a few times. You may experience fever, headache, weakness, muscle pain, easy bruising, diarrhea, and appetite loss.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
The bacteria behind this fever is the Rickettsia rickettsii, whose vectors are of numerous types of ticks. You may experience reddish or blacken rash dots on the skin, and of course, high fever. It can be fatal if you don’t receive early medical treatment.
Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI)
The lone star tick is the main vector of STARI, and this disease mainly involves the appearance of the circular rash. Also, you may feel tired, headache, and joint pain also.
What is the best way to repel ticks?
The best way to repel ticks is to use tick repellents, either on clothing or skin.
Can a tick bite through clothing?
They can bite on or crawl through your clothing.
What to wear to prevent ticks?
You should wear long trousers tucked into your boots, long sleeve tops, and hiking boots.
What colors attract ticks?
Light colors attract ticks.
What do ticks hate?
Ticks hate many fragrances, including orange, lemon, lavender, peppermint, cinnamon, and rose geranium.
Which months will ticks come out the most?
Tick nymphs are active in spring and summer, while late autumn is when adult ticks come out the most.