Tick Talk

When I took my puppy on his first hike, he was ecstatic to be out of the city. He wanted to explore everywhere, especially the tall grasses off the trail 🙄 I panicked and stopped us every time he wandered towards the edge of the trail, checking his paws and face chaotically for ticks. It ended up being a long hike for a very short distance.

If only I’d had GOES to help plan my hike – I would’ve known I wasn’t in an area where tick-borne illness is prevalent, that a thorough check at the end of the day would’ve been more efficient than many superficial ones, and that I should be just as diligent about checking for ticks on myself. 

If you’re new to ticks, or if your fear of them keeps you from fully enjoying your time outdoors, keep reading to learn more about protecting yourself (and your loved ones) from tick-borne illness.

🌾 The basics

Ticks are tiny arachnids that feed on blood. They are mostly found in tall grasses and low lying shrubs, waiting for a mammal (like a human or dog) to brush by so they can latch on and have a new source of blood. 

Tick bites themselves are rarely dangerous, but the disease potentially transmitted through one very well could be. Serious infections can be debilitating, require prolonged hospitalization, or even be fatal. Like any risk, the more you know, the better you can prepare and be present outdoors. 

Keep in mind:

  • Spotting a tick can be tricky because they can be so tiny. (Think: poppy or sesame seed) Try not to confuse them for a freckle or mole.
  • Different species of ticks carry different diseases. One of the most commonly-known tick-borne illnesses is Lyme disease. Some other notable infections from ticks are: Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), ehrlichiosis, or tularemia.
  • Ticks are found throughout the US, especially in the northeast, south and midwest. Check out this map for an overview of where tick-borne illnesses have been reported.
  • Tick season is late spring to early fall, as they are most active in the warmer months. But exposure is still possible anytime.
  • Time matters – the longer a tick is biting you, the more likely it is to transmit disease. Daily tick checks while outdoors can help reduce the incidence of transmission.

 

✅ Tips & Tricks

There’s no way to steer completely clear of a tick encounter, but you can minimize your risk of bites and illness:

  1. Be aware: Know what wildlife will be active wherever you’re going, and when you will be there.
  2. Stay on the trail: This is a case where staying on the beaten path is a good idea. By staying on the open part of the trail, you’ll avoid brushing up against grasses and shrubs where ticks are waiting to latch onto you. 
  3. Wear protective clothing: Wearing long sleeves and pants can prevent ticks from attaching to your exposed skin. (As a bonus, you’ll probably also be protected from other risks like UV damage or toxic plants.)
  4. Use bug repellent: Bug sprays or lotions like DEET, picaridin, and permethrin can help keep bugs away. Make sure to use them correctly by following the directions on the bottle.
  5. Check regularly: Make a habit of checking for ticks when you’re outside, especially if you’re in a tick region. Check during rests, at the end of the day, and again once you’ve removed your clothes. Checks must be thorough, since ticks can be hard to see and their bites are usually painless. 
  6. Look extra closely: Ticks can bite anywhere, but especially like warmer places. When you do your tick checks, pay extra attention to warm areas like the armpits and groin region.

     

If you do find a tick embedded in your skin, you should remove it right away. Looking for step-by-step instructions for removal, caring for the bite, symptoms, and prevention tips? We’ve got it all on the app.

🧑‍⚕️ Science & statis-ticks

🌱 Because of their life cycles, small ticks are more likely to transmit disease.

⏱️ If an embedded tick is removed within 36 hours, its risk of transmitting Lyme disease is considered low, and antibiotics are not recommended.

🗓️ After a tick has attached and spread an infection, it could take anywhere from 3 days to one month for the infection to set in.  Watch closely for signs of infection during this time frame.

🌡️ Ticks are most active in warm, humid conditions (above 45ºF and 82% humidity), which means an increasing risk of Lyme disease exposure in our future, due to effects of climate change 🫠

🕷️ Since ticks are arachnids (not insects) they are actually more closely related to spiders than, say, beetles or ants.

❌ Attempts to crush, smother, or burn a tick attached to your skin may actually cause it to regurgitate, making it more likely to transmit disease. Only remove a tick using a recommended method (as found on the GOES app)!

There’s clearly a lot to know about ticks and the diseases they spread. Luckily, all of it – and more – can be found in GOES. Prepare for, assess, and nurture the unexpected with GOES, so you can get the most from your outdoor adventure. Wherever and whenever you need us, we’ve got you.

Reviewed by Dr. Jay Sharp

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