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Tick Bite Prevention & Treatment

Anyone who spends time in the outdoors needs to know about tick bite prevention. Ticks are diminutive, parasitic arachnids broadly distributed around the world and most notable as transmitters of a variety of diseases. Across much of the U.S., anyone spending time outside should know the basics of tick safety: preventing and treating tick bites. Learning to avoid and manage tick bites—and including the tools to do so among your survival gear—is a fundamental component of outdoor self reliance.

Tick Bite Danger

Ticks have been implicated as vectors for a host of maladies affecting human beings. They’re best-known for transmitting the bacterial infection called Lyme disease. A tick bite can be the source of a tick-borne disease include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, Colorado tick fever, and tick-borne relapsing fever.

Tick Bite Prevention

Ticks can be tiny: The blacklegged tick, a major carrier of Lyme disease in the eastern U.S., may be an eighth of an inch long. It takes a bit of preparation and alertness to keep ticks off you—and to detect them if they hitch a ride.

While you may encounter ticks across a wide range of habitats, you’re typically most at risk in areas of tall grass, heavy brush, and dense shrublands and woods.

To prevent a tick bite in such tick-prone areas, wear a hat as well as long sleeves and pants, and tuck your pant cuffs into your socks. Light-colored clothing is best, because it’s that much easier to spot a little brown or black hitchhiker.

Applying insect repellant to your clothing can reduce your exposure to ticks; the product Permethrin actually kills the arachnids upon contact, but shouldn’t be used directly on your skin. In addition, there are plenty of natural home remedies that many swear by. They include tea-tree and other botanical oils applied to skin, as well as garlic—in raw or pill form—directly ingested.

After a hike, check yourself thoroughly for ticks. If possible, strip down and use a mirror for a comprehensive search; it’s often easiest to do all this in a shower. Wash your clothes and use a high-heat dryer setting to kill any hangers-on you missed.

Remove ticks promptly. They commonly roam around a while before biting, so if you check yourself as soon as possible after passing through likely habitat, your chances of actually having one attach itself to you—and possibly transfer infection—is less likely. You can use your survival knife from your survival gear to pin one down for closer inspection. Awareness is the first step in preventing a tick bite.

Tick Bite Treatment

If you have a tick bite, don’t simply tear it off in panic: The head may remain affixed. Grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible—tweezers are best, so be sure to keep a pair in your survival gear—and lift straight up firmly. Then wash the bite area with soap and water.

A tick bite can be the beginning of flu-like symptoms, so monitor yourself for any sign of major tick-borne illnesses. In general, many of these diseases first manifest themselves through chills, fever, achiness, and fatigue. Watch for rashes, often but not exclusively commencing at the bite site. These can be diagnostic: A Lyme disease patient commonly shows a circular rash called an erythema migrans, often resembling a bull’s-eye.

Seek medical treatment if such symptoms set in following a tick bite.

Don’t let ticks dampen your enjoyment of the great outdoors, but be aware of them. Knowledge and diligence—hallmarks of true outdoor self reliance—will greatly reduce the chance of contracting a serious tick-borne disease. Also, be sure to carry the proper tools listed above in your survival gear for tick prevention and treatment.

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