The seasons change and spring’s sunshine and warmer temperatures make the outdoors inviting. You get a whiff of fresh air and the next thing you know, you’re searching for your hiking boots. Before you head outdoors, check out these tips to help you reduce the risk of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases because young ticks are out and about.
Mid to late March is when young ticks typically make their first appearance of the year. They are commonly found in tall grass and shrubs. And as young ticks, known as larvae and nymphs, are quite small–the size of a poppy seed–they tend to be more likely to transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease because they can go unnoticed. That’s why it’s important to take these important steps to reduce the risk of being bitten by a tick and exposed to tick-borne disease while enjoying nature.
Hike Safer to Reduce the Risk of Ticks
- Wear light colored clothing so that you can see a tick more easily on your shirt or pants.
- Wear a long sleeved shirt, tucked into long pants, tucked into socks and shoes. This reduces the amount of exposed skin available to a tick.
- Try to stay on cleared trails or paths. Ticks are found in dense vegetation and tall grass.
- Do a tick check after hiking. Check your entire body for ticks including areas that are dark and warm such as your hairline, belt-line, groin, under breasts, under arms, and behind ears.
How Ticks Can Make You Sick
- Ticks do not jump or fly–they quest–meaning they hold on to vegetation with their back legs and extend their front legs to come in contact with a person or animal that walks by.
- Once they touch a person or animal, they let go of the plant and travel up an arm or leg looking for a warm dark area where they can bite and take a blood meal.
- When they complete their blood meal, ticks will drop off to continue their physical development.
- If a tick is infected, it can transmit bacteria while feeding. The longer the tick is attached, the greater the chance that it can transmit the bacteria. In California, ticks are known to transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease along with other tick-borne diseases.
What to Do If You Find a Tick on You
- If you find a tick on yourself or someone who is hiking with you, safely remove the tick using tweezers, as close to the skin as possible.
- Gently, but firmly pull the tick straight off of the skin and place it in a Ziploc bag. Prompt removal, usually within 24 hours, reduces the risk of bacteria transmission.
If you’d like to have the tick species identified, the District provides tick identification free of charge. Simply place a damp cotton ball in the Ziploc bag with the tick and then bring it to the District office or mail it to the District. A District biologist can identify the tick and let you know if it is the Western Black-legged tick which can transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. The District can also provide a list of testing laboratories, should you chose to have the tick tested.