Enjoying the great outdoors is part of summer fun. Our family enjoys hiking and camping under the stars for many of our vacations, but with that fun come some nasty little creatures known as ticks. The bloodsucking vampires come looking for hosts to feed on in the night.
Ticks are actually small arachnids (yes, as in relation to the spider family), which makes them all the more horrifying if you loathes spiders as much as I do. They are ectoparasites, feeding on a host’s blood externally. The process of how a tick enters the skin of its host to begin feeding is terrifying, as it uses a sword-like device to attack your body.
When I was a kid, we had a vine we would swing off of in the woods. We would start at the top of the mountain (at least two stories high) and swing down until the hill bellied out, dropping into the tall, soft grass and weeds. We did this for hours. When we finally grew tired, we would come up to the driveway and strip down out of our clothes because we would be covered in ticks!
Looking back now, it gives me the shivers. I can’t tell you how many ticks my parents had to remove from my head back in the day. We didn’t know back then how many diseases these nasty little pests can carry: Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever, babesiosis, tularemia, and ehrlichiosis are all diseases that ticks can spread, but perhaps the most common and well known is Lyme disease. Many of these illnesses present the same symptoms. If you have been bitten by a tick and develop any of these symptoms, get to your doctor for testing: fever, chills, fatigue, muscle aches, or a rash that resembles a bullseye that can appear between 3 and 30 days after the bite.
Next page: How to protect your family from ticks.
Here are some ways you can protect your family from tick bites and still enjoy nature this summer.
The CDC recommends using products that contain 20-30% DEET, and that works, but keep in mind it’s a chemical you are putting on your children, so take caution when using.
2. Natural Ways to Prevent Ticks
I prefer using natural forms of insect repellent on my children. There are many companies out there that sell repellents made with essential oils, like California Baby, that work just as well as DEET. Or you can make your own using doTERRA oils.
3. Wear the Appropriate Clothing
Wear light-colored clothing, tuck your socks into your pants, wear long sleeves and a hat. This will help keep ticks from finding their way to your skin for their midday snack.
4. Stick to the Trails
Try and stick to the cleared trails when hiking as much as possible and avoid long brush. Ticks thrive in long grasses.
5. Take a Shower After a Hike
Be sure to take a shower after a hike and check your body for any possible ticks, especially in the hair, behind ears, behind knees, and in the belly button.
6. Wash Clothes and Dry Them in a Dryer
Be sure to wash clothing thoroughly and dry them in a dryer for at least 10 minutes on high heat to kill any that may have survived the wash.
7. Remove the Tick if One is Found
There are several effective and safe tick removal devices on the market such as the Tick Key. It’s inexpensive and ensures the entire tick is removed.
Here’s a video demonstrating the proper procedure for removing a tick: