At last we can finally shed the winter clothing layers and hit the hiking trails. Where ever we go as we travel along in our RV life style we can find places to go to get out of the hubbub of cities and traffic and too many people. As you head out on your hikes, I have no doubt you are well equipped with your pack filled with things for safe and healthy hiking. So, it was a beautiful day and an awesome hike and now you sit around your camp and talk about what a great day it was and all the beauty in nature you got to experience.
The Body Check
When you got back from your hike, before you sat down around the camp, did you do a clothing check for ticks? Why would you want to do that you ask? There are tiny little critters that can make themselves at home on your clothing and eventually onto your body that can cause you much misery later on if you don’t find them first. The misery would be from contracting Lyme disease.
Some nymph-stage ticks are no bigger than a pinhead. This is the stage for transmission of Lyme disease, so you definitely want to be sure you are not harboring these unwanted guests. Even though they are difficult to see, have another person help you do a clothing inspection, especially around cuff and collar areas. After that, shed your outer clothing and, away from your area, shake them out. Now check all exposed skin, including around the hairline, in the hair and on the scalp and in and behind the ears. Remove your shoes and socks and check your ankles and legs. Inside your home or RV, inspect all private body areas and under your arms, using a mirror, if needed, or have your partner help. Don’t forget to check between the toes, especially if you hiked in an open shoe, which, I may add, is not a good idea. Ticks move quickly and easily, so checking everything is important.
If you find a tick and it has not yet imbedded, pinch it off in kill mode. Sorry, little fella, we have to do it. If it is imbedded, there is no need to panic, but it is important that it is removed as soon as possible. There are tick removal kits available, but if you have a pair of fine-tipped tweezers, these will do the job. Please don’t use folklore remedies that make the tick detach itself, because you want it removed as soon as possible.
To remove the tick using the tweezers, grasp it as close to your skin surface as possible. Next, pull straight upward with steady even pressure. Don’t jerk or twist the tick because this can cause it to break off, leaving its mouthparts still in the skin. Use the tweezers to remove the mouthparts, and, if you are unable to remove them, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water, rubbing alcohol and an iodine scrub if you have it. If you got the whole tick off, also wash your hands as well as the bite site. If you could not get the whole tick out, you may choose to see a doctor. If you develop a rash or fever within a few weeks of removing a tick, it is important to see a doctor. Be sure to provide information on when and where the bite occurred.
Lyme disease can be a challenge to diagnose and is easily misdiagnosed, so early investigation and detection is important. In most cases, if it is caught early, it is easier to treat the bacteria infection with antibiotics. Early symptoms show up within the first couple of weeks but can be shorter or longer. These symptoms are a circular skin rash with a red dot in the center at the bite site, and there is usually a fever, headache, fatigue and depression. Untreated or misdiagnosed, people may experience more acute neurological symptoms and problems, but in rare cases are the side effects of Lyme disease permanent. However, it is still important to get treatment early.
Avoiding The Bite to Avoid Lyme Disease
To avoid being bitten by a tick, you can tuck your pants into your socks, keep wrist cuffs buttoned or tucked into gloves, wear a hat and use an anti-tick product on your clothes and on the skin areas at the clothing line. Even with these precautions, it is best to do the after-hike inspection, or earlier if you feel one on your skin.
In earlier years, it was thought only the deer and Western black-legged tick transmitted the bacteria called burgdorferi into the host; however, it is now known that mice, mosquitoes and biting flies can also transmit Lyme disease. Reported infections are mostly caused from the deer tick and located in states in the northern hemisphere (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Wisconsin and Minnesota), but all states have reported the disease. The Western black-legged ticks spread the disease along the Pacific coast, mostly in northern California and Oregon.
Don’t let the fear of Lyme disease hinder you from experiencing the great outdoors. Hiking can provide wonderful mental and physical rewards. Just be aware and remember to do your inspections.
Karen lives full-time in her motorhome. She has been in nursing since 1969, with eight years as a RN travel contract nurse. Her areas of specialty are emergency room and telemetry. Portions of Karen’s articles may be published, or have been previously published, in other newsletters and publications. Nothing written is meant to diagnose, prescribe or take the place of seeing a physician, and her articles are not meant to cover all available information or health care options.
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