A day after my previous exploration, I discovered what most outdoorsmen/women fear discovering a day after a hike: ticks.
I found not one but two ticks near my, how do you say it, nether regions. The second of which I actually found two days later, which goes to show: even after a thorough search, these little arachnids can be difficult to detect.
I bring up this topic because even if you are already aware of the danger that ticks present, I’m willing to bet that a large portion of the population does not know what can happen after just one tick bite.
With that being said, here are a few basics about ticks and why they are a concern:
- Ticks are very small arachnids (related to spiders) that bite and attach themselves to the surface of your skin.
- Ticks feed predominantly on the blood of warm-blooded animals (birds and mammals). This includes humans.
- Ticks are vectors for several diseases, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease
That last fact is very important, especially if you live in the northeast United States (where I live). Lyme Disease is a huge problem (over 200,000 new cases reported per year), and in the northeast US, the concentration of ticks and tick-borne diseases is very high. If you still aren’t convinced, below is a graphic to scare you:
Lyme Disease is named for the first detected case, in the town of Old Lyme, CT (image: CDC)
Of course I’m not trying to scare you, but the concentration of blue dots on the map is alarming. I’m just hoping to add a little more awareness to a big concern when it comes to the outdoors. To make you feel a little better, ticks need to be attached for ~48 hours in order to transmit Lyme Disease. Therefore, if you are diligent about performing a thorough tick-check immediately after outdoor activities, then you should not have to worry about anything other than an itchy tick bite that will last for a few days. Also, only two species of tick are known to transmit Lyme Disease: the blacklegged tick (deer tick) and the western blacklegged tick (native to the west coast). If you do find a tick on you, make sure you remove it properly.
I find it amazing that searching for these tiny critters on your body can be critical in preventing a life-altering disease. When I was about 7 years old, I found a deer tick on me (again around the groin) and I developed an ugly brownish-red rash. I remember thinking that the tick was just a mole or a freckle. I didn’t even know that ticks were a thing. After visiting the doctor, I was prescribed antibiotics. Lucky for me the antibiotics worked and I learned my “tick lesson” very early in life. As much as I love exploring, my most recent encounter with ticks reminded me to be careful when it comes to nature. It took me two tick-checks to find two ticks! [WARNING! Semi-graphic detail ahead!] And if I am being honest, I found the first tick while urinating, and the second tick before a shower. Even if you have made it out of the woods unscathed, you aren’t entirely out of the woods until you have scanned your body for these pesky blood-suckers.