On the Trail: Don’t get ticked
Just in time for the start of hiking season, it’s tick season, too. That means it’s time to take precautions to avoid the bite of those nasty little buggers, not to mention limbering up for the contortions involved in checking yourself over after you’ve been outdoors.”By the end of May and early June, tick activity usually is at a peak throughout the mountains, and we always have an increase in reported Colorado tick fever cases in the following weeks,” said John Pape, an epidemiologist specializing in animal-related diseases for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.Those who become ill following a tick bite should contact their physician to ensure that it is Colorado tick fever and not something more serious, he advised.While ticks can be found anywhere, they tend to concentrate on sunny, southern slopes and in areas with grass and low-brush vegetation. “Ticks do not live in trees and drop on people walking by. They stay low to the ground and when a person or an animal walks by, the ticks latch on and start looking for a place to dig in,” he said.Pape advises wearing light-colored clothing outdoors, which makes it easier to see the ticks, and to apply a small amount of insect repellent, especially on ankles and legs.Even more important are regular “tick checks,” he said.”Conduct head-to-toe searches on each other every couple of hours during a mountain excursion, focusing particularly on the neck beneath the hair. On children, it is particularly common to find ticks beneath the hair line and behind the ears,” he said.Tick checks should be conducted regularly because it usually takes ticks an hour to find a place to embed. It then takes 24 hours or more of feeding before an infected tick can transmit enough of a disease organism to cause illness.If a tick is embedded in the skin, simply pull it out – unless it’s in an ear or another sensitive area. To remove a tick, grasp it with a tweezers or fingers (covered with tissue if available) and slowly and firmly pull it out. Avoid twisting or jerking the tick. Wash the bite with soap and water.If the tick has made its way into the ear or another sensitive body area, consult a physician about removal.For a free pamphlet on Colorado tick fever or other tick-borne disease information, call 303-692-2700.
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