For those of us hitting the trails for safe, virus-free recreation these days, it’s important to remember that there are potential dangers in the great outdoors, too. Ticks rank at the top of the list once you cross off lions and tigers and bears, which really don’t want to mess with us if they don’t have to. Rattlesnakes don’t either; just stay out of their way.
Ticks, on the other hand, are hunting for our blood. There are 4 species in California that transmit diseases: the American dog tick, the brown dog tick, the Pacific Coast tick, and, last but not least, the western black-legged tick, the only one that carries Lyme disease. This one is also known as a “deer tick” for its common means of transportation and we have plenty of deer in the greater Ojai area.
You can greatly reduce the chances of picking up a tick by staying in the middle of the trail, avoiding contact with brush, and not sitting on the ground. I recommend a lightweight campstool that you can carry on your daypack. If you pick one up anyway, being able to recognize and remove it right away is the key to avoiding infection. Although the CDC says that in most cases the tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted, there are cases of people being infected in under 4 hours.
Reader Angie (see her comment below) recommends LymeDisease.org as a great site for information. She also offers the following tips:
“Fully enjoy the great outdoors, but do take precautions. Tuck clothing into socks and waistbands, wear light colored clothing to better see ticks and check yourself periodically on the trail, doing a full body check when you finish the hike. Remove cloths and leave them outside until washing. If you find one attached on your skin, follow removal guidelines and SAVE the tick in a zip-lock baggy with a moist tissue. It may be easier and more accurate to test the tick than the person.”
The California Department of Public Health also has great resources at the Tick-Borne Diseases page on their website. Here are some useful charts:
These are the 2 sides of a handy wallet-sized card. Be sure to ask me for one on your next herb walk.
This next chart shows the seasonal risk of exposure to black-legged ticks. While summer is considered a less dangerous time, they are active all year.
And here is another chart from a different website that shows the actual size of the black-legged tick:
So whether you’re going to the grocery store or exploring the Sespe Wilderness, remember SAFETY FIRST!