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  • Kathy Schrenk

Trail Dangers--Ticks

It seems like warmer weather has finally come to stay. Spring is a favorite time of year to hike for many people, but it can be the time of year most fraught with danger -- namely ticks and poison ivy.

Spring Hiking is full of simple pleasures--and it's safe if you know what precautions to take.

Ticks seem to scare people more than snakes, bears, and falling off a cliff combined when it comes to hiking risks. Of course, hiking is possibly the safest outdoor activity you can engage in. Remember to pack the 10 Essentials , tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back, and keep in mind the following:

A tick I pulled off of one of my kids after a spring hike.

For the highest level of protection against ticks, use a four-pronged approach:

  • -Treat clothing and gear, including footwear and hats, with a permethrin spray, which you should be able to buy at a hardware or department store, or online. Make sure to follow all the directions on the bottle. Once you spray your gear, the chemical will remain and repel ticks for several washings. I’ve found this to be the most successful method for avoiding tick bites; if you do only one thing to repel ticks, spray your boots and socks with permethrin.

  • -Wear long pants and a shirt and tuck your pants into your boots and your shirt into your pants. Don't forget the wide-brimmed hat.

  • -Use insect repellent with DEET on exposed skin--again, read the directions and warnings.

  • -Stay on the trail. (This is also the number one way to keep from getting a nasty poison ivy rash.)

I do some of these, but not all (I just hate hiking in long pants during the summer, so I make sure my socks and shorts are treated with permethrin). No matter what you do, you still might get a tick or two. Once you get home, do a thorough check of everyone. If you do find one dug in, there are lots of tips and tricks for removal online. Pulling it out with tweezers is the most common technique. Make sure to have a tweezers and some alcohol wipes (to clean the site of the bite after removal) in your first aid kit. And if you hike with a dog, make sure the dog is up-to-date on tick treatments, which are topical treatments you can buy over the counter. These cause ticks to die after they bite the dog, so you still need to check the dog for ticks to keep him or her from bringing ticks into the car or house.

Finally, take comfort in the fact that ticks in Missouri are much less likely to transmit Lyme and other diseases than those further east.

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