Camping is a great way to see and experience wildlife, however, ticks are not the creatures most of us are looking to share our vacation with (or our blood)! As an ER physician, I have cared for many patients with tick bites and these incidents can be very alarming for the victims. 

The CDC recently released new guidelines for treating tick bites, an exciting development that should keep countless people from getting sick! A single prophylactic dose of doxycycline (200 mg. for adults; based on weight for children), given within 72 hours of a high-risk deer tick bite can prevent the development of Lyme disease. While tick exposure can occur anytime, ticks are most active during the summer months. Ticks live in grassy, brushy, wooded areas, in leaf piles and on animals. 

Avoiding Ticks
Clothing and gear can be treated with permethrin (widely available at major retailers) to repel ticks. Insect repellents can also add protection, but be sure to follow the product instructions. Wearing long sleeves and tucking long pants into the tops of hiking boots reduces tick exposure, not to mention, can help you avoid poison ivy.

After you go indoors, make sure to check your clothing for ticks. Examine all your gear and your pets, too, as ticks can ride home on a vector, then attach to you later. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce the risk of Lyme disease. And did you know, just 10 minutes in a hot dryer will kill ticks hidden in seams and pockets of clothing? If you find a tick that hasn’t latched on, you aren’t at risk for any of these infections. Ticks usually spend 30 to 60 minutes crawling around your body before they burrow.

Found a Tick, Anyway?

Despite your best efforts, if you find a tick attached to your body, remove it as soon as possible. I find fine-tipped tweezers work very well. Grab the tick close to the head and pull up slowly and carefully (see image). Clean the area well and take note of how you are feeling. Symptoms of tick-borne Illnesses commonly include fever, chills, aches, pains and rashes and can begin from one day to several weeks after a bite. It is important to seek medical care if you experience any of these symptoms after a tick bite. If you remove a tick, it is sometimes helpful to place it in a sealed jar in case you need to identify it or have it cultured later. It can be very useful to physicians when determining treatment regimens. 

The Good News

Most ticks don’t carry diseases, and most tick bites don’t cause serious health problems. But, as my grandmother always said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” And these evolving developments are very exciting! It is with great joy that I am sharing this new protocol.

Tick Diseases

  • Lyme Disease is the most common tick-borne illness in the US. The CDC estimates there are around 300,000 cases a year. Ticks that carry Lyme disease (blacklegged tick or deer tick) live mostly in the Northeast and Upper Midwest. 
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever infects up to 3,000 people a year. It can happen in every state except Hawaii, Alaska and Maine, but it is mostly in the Midwest and Southeast. It is most often transmitted by the American dog tick and the brown dog tick. 
  • Tick Paralysis is caused by a poison in a tick’s saliva. It happens in the Rocky Mountains and Northwestern states and Canada. It usually subsides once the tick is removed. The most common vectors are the American dog tick and the Rocky Mountain wood tick.

This article, written by By Dr. Patricia Ellison, first appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of Girl Camper magazine, Subscribe here.

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