Geocaching and Tick Prevention
Granted, because this is a geocaching forum and most of us spend a great deal of time outdoors, tick awareness and prevention is probably nothing new to you. This article is more for the uninitiated and a great opportunity for me to rant.
I hate ticks – plain and simple. Ticks are blood sucking parasites that can carry disease and make life for you and your pets miserable. Ticks are arachnids. They have eight legs, feed entirely on the blood of their hosts and give me the heebie-jeebies. Ticks and bloodsuckers are hands down the most feared items for me in the woods, well that and poison ivy, there is NOTHING I hate more than poison ivy. Give me bears, mountain lions, the occasional rabid squirrel or even meeting the creepy guy named Steve who lives down the street on a geocaching excursion and I’m good – bring it on. Throw down some bloodsuckers and I’m sitting in the corner rocking back and forth babbling to myself like an idiot. There is nothing I hate more than coming home from a geocaching adventure and finding a tick harboring on my neck, ankle or in the most uncomfortable of situations, one that has traveled up a pant leg. Some people hate clowns – don’t judge me.
OK, maybe that is a bit much, but the point is I don’t like ticks and for good reason.
Ticks can carry diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, relapsing fever, tularemia, several diseases that end in “osis” and what I am most familiar with, Lyme Disease.
Lyme Disease can affect humans and pets and is often associated with a bulls-eye shaped rash at the infection site. If left untreated, Lyme Disease can cause a host of serious issues involving:
Shooting pains, numbness, and tingling in the hands or feet. A neurological syndrome called Lyme encephalopathy is associated with subtle cognitive problems, such as difficulties with concentration and short-term memory. These patients may also experience profound fatigue. – Wikipediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ticks
All in all not a good day at Ridgemont High. The aptly named “Deer Tick”, common here in Maine and New Hampshire, is largely responsible for the spread of Lyme Disease. Areas with heavy deer populations will also see a large increase in the tick population. Although deer are tasty, the answer to preventing ticks is not to remove ALL of the deer. A study conducted from 1996 – 2004 found that a controlled population of ten deer per square mile was enough to reduce the tick population by 92%.
Like poison ivy, there are ways to prevent most of the nefarious plants and critters that can hamper the enjoyment of geocaching. As much as I like to rant, a tick is not going to stop me from seeking out a FTF in a remote location or getting on my hands and knees in tall grass to find a particularly tricky cache – I just need to be smart about it.
Here are some tick prevention tips I use and we certainly welcome your thoughts on the subject.
- Know the environment – ticks prefer long grass and moist humid areas. If there is a well defined trail, stay near the center
- Common bug sprays work well as a tic repellent
- Where light colored clothing so you can see the tick and remove it
- Tuck your pants into your socks to prevent ticks from biting your ankles or climbing to your nether regions.
- When you get home shower, you and your family will appreciate it
- Wash your clothes as they can become attached to the clothing and hit you up for a meal later on.
- Inspect yourself and your pets, common areas are under the arms, around the ears, behind the knees, waist and even inside the belly button
- Have your pets on a monthly treatment: I use Frontline on my geo-pup
There are several tools on the market to remove ticks, but simple tweezers will work just fine in most cases. Removing ticks from yourself and your pets is essential and the sooner you act the better. Below are some great tips from the ASPCA on how to remove ticks from your fur friends. Most of these tips work for humans as well. My geo-pup makes another Madcacher cameo!
Step-by-Step Tick Removal Instructions for Your Pet
- Prepare its Final Resting Place Throwing a tick in the trash or flushing it down the toilet will not kill it, and it’s actually best to hold on to it for awhile for veterinary testing in case your pet falls ill from the bite. Be ready with somewhere to put the tick after you’ve removed it—the best option is a screw-top jar containing some rubbing alcohol.
- Don’t Bare-Hand It Put on latex or rubber gloves so you’ll never have direct contact with the tick or your pet’s bite area. Ticks can carry infective agents that may enter your bloodstream through breaks in your skin or through mucous membranes (if you touch your eyes, nostrils or mouth).
- Grab a Partner You don’t want your pet squirming away before you’re finished, so if possible, have a helper on hand to distract, soothe or hold her still.
- The Removal Treat the bite area with rubbing alcohol and, using a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the animal’s skin as possible. Pull straight upwards with steady, even pressure. Place the tick in your jar. Do not twist or jerk the tick! This may leave the mouth-parts embedded in your pet, or cause the tick to regurgitate infective fluids. Do not squeeze or crush the body of the tick, because its fluids (saliva and gut contents) may contain infective organisms.
- All that Remains Sometimes, in spite of doing everything right, a tick’s mouth-parts will get left behind in your pet’s skin. If the area doesn't appear red or inflamed, the best thing to do is to disinfect it and not to try to take the mouth-parts out. A warm compress to the area might help the body expel them, but do not go at it with tweezers.
- Clean Up Thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash your hands with soap and water (even though you were wearing gloves). Sterilize your tweezers with alcohol or by carefully running them over a flame.
- Keep Watch Over the next few weeks, closely monitor the bite area for any signs of localized infection. If the area is already red and inflamed, or becomes so later, please bring your pet—and your jarred tick—to your veterinarian for evaluation. – ASPCAhttp://www.aspca.org/pet-care/pet-care-tips/how-to-remove-a-tick-from-your-pet.aspx