For those of us living locally, an open trail is a used trail. We wait out the mandatory closures impatiently and then, when they finally open, we don our hiking shoes and bikes and enjoy our beautiful trails.
A few years back, my husband and I took advantage of trail opening day and went on a glorious hike. We made it a quick one, knowing that later in the day, we were packing up the car and driving to Las Vegas with the kids. So, we hiked, came home, showered, and saw a tick. EW!
A short time later in the car, may daughter saw a tick crawling on her leg. That night, in Las Vegas, my husband saw one on his foot. The next morning I woke up to a tick attached to my chest. Later that day, my daughter had one on her neck.
By then, I was freaking out. There is only one thing I am more afraid of than ticks- snakes.
Though it is probably irrational, I will never go out on the trails on opening day. I will wait until some other unsuspecting person clears away some of the ticks. They seriously gross me out and scare me!
Ticks are a vector for several diseases. Ticks carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Babesia, Bartonella, Ehrlichiosis, and Lyme Disease. There is great controversy over whether or not there is Lyme Disease in the ticks of Colorado. I have seen the damage that Lyme Disease can have on a person. And I don’t want to take any chances. Neither should you!
Here is how you can still use the trails and stay safe from ticks:
- Wear proper clothing. It is not much fun to cover yourself from the sun, when there are so few months to be in short sleeves and shorts, but covering your skin provides a first line of defence against these nasty critters. Tuck pants into your socks, wear long sleeves, and tuck your long hair up. Wearing light colors will allow you to more easily see the insects crawling on you.
- Insect repellant. It is always best to spray your clothes with insect repellant rather than your skin- even the essential oil blends and herbal products. I do not recommend DEET unless your danger of exposure is very high because it is a neurotoxin. Better choices are picaridin, permethrin treated clothing, IR3535, and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus which is just as effective as DEET but needs to be applied more frequently.
- Protect Yourself. Cut back tall grasses and brush around your home, remove your clothes immediately after being outdoors, and, in the shower, gently rub your body with a washcloth to remove any ticks that might have attached.
If you do find a tick on you, remove it immediately. The longer it stays attached the more likely it is to pass on an infection. Wash the area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol, apply a topical antimicrobial several times a day, and increase your immune support with a product like Viracid or Super Bio-Vegetarian.
You can kill the tick by soaking it in rubbing alcohol, save it in a sealed plastic bag, and send it to a lab to assess the tick for infection. If it has not bit someone, you can kill it by flushing it down the toilet.
While this article may seem paranoid, tick-borne disease is a real risk to those who play outside. Even if you don’t personally hit the trails, your kids will roll in the grass, and your dogs might bring ticks inside.
Protect yourself and continue to enjoy our beautiful outdoors!