Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Spring: The Season of the Tick

These nasty little creatures feed by attaching and sucking blood from their host. Below is the magnified mouth parts of a tick – amazing (Pictures from the California Department of Public Health).

The King Range is abundant with ticks around the spring and summer months. The main problem with these creatures, besides the fact that they give you the creeps, is that they transmit disease. The western blacklegged tick, Ixodes pacificus, transmits the bacteria that cause Lyme. There was a great article in the North Coast Journal from April 2011 Titled, “Repellant,” that said:

Deer ticks don’t jump or leap onto their hosts; they crawl and “quest” by positioning themselves on leaves or blades of grass, then raising their clawed forelegs. Aided by carbon dioxide sensors on their legs, they anticipate approaching animals and grab onto their furry coats as they pass by. Or, in the case of people, they grab onto pant legs or shirt tails.

Well said, and there are plenty of grasses along many of the trails that serve as great places for ticks to position themselves. Now that you’re aware of this you can take the necessary precautions and actions.

It is recommended that you:

Stay in the middle of the trail and avoid grassy areas, contact with logs, tree trunks and
fallen branches or tree limbs in forests. This may be impossible to avoid on sections of the Lost Coast Trail so check yourself often (hair line, armpit, back
of knees, groin) for ticks during and up to three days after your trip in tick infested areas.

Tuck pants into boots or socks, and shirt into pants.

Wear light-colored clothing and long-sleeved shirts so ticks can be more easily seen.

Use a repellent registered for use against ticks. Repellents with DEET are effective
and can be applied to the skin. Repellents with permethrin should be applied only to
clothing. Always follow directions on the container and be especially careful when
applying to children.

To remove a tick:

Grasp the tick’s mouthparts as close to the skin as possible.

Gently pull the tick straight out, using a firm steady motion.

Wash your hands and the bite site with soap and water. Apply an antiseptic to the
bite site.

Prompt tick removal can prevent transmission of infection because an infected tick must be attached and feeding for at least a day before it can transmit the spirochetes (the bacterium that causes Lyme disease).

Consult with your physician if you develop any symptoms, especially a rash, within
30 days of the tick bite.

According to the California Department of Public Health:

Lyme disease can affect many body systems. Lyme disease can start as a mild flu-like illness and, over time, develop into severe chronic health problems. The early stages of the disease can include a red, expanding skin rash (called erythema migrans or EM), chills and fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, muscle and joint pain, weakness of some muscles in the face, and heart irregularities. The EM rash appears up to 30 days after the bite of an infected tick. One or more EM rashes can occur, not necessarily at the tick bite. The rash can precede, accompany, or follow flu-like symptoms. The rash may not be noticed in some instances due to skin tone or occurrence on the body in locations difficult to see. Occasionally, an allergic reaction to the tick bite can occur on the skin and may be mistaken for an EM. The allergic reaction is different from an EM rash because it happens within minutes to hours after the tick bite and does not spread. If left untreated, arthritis or nervous system signs can develop in some Lyme disease
patients. Arthritis is most likely to appear as bouts of pain and swelling, usually in one
or more large joints, especially the knees. Nervous system abnormalities can include
numbness, tingling, or pain in the arms and legs, or difficulties in memory and the ability
to concentrate.Lyme disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics, especially in the early stages. The potential for long-term complications increases if the disease progresses untreated.

I don’t think this is something to cancel your trip over but you should definitely be aware and take precautions. Visit the CDPH web page for a wealth of information about tick-born diseases.

Hope this helps,

Give me a call if you have any questions about hiking the Lost Coast.

Your Wilderness Ranger,



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