Often times, the last thing you’re thinking about while hiking through the serene forest is dealing with a tick bite and the aftermath of disease. I am definitely guilty of slacking on bug spray and telling myself that it’s no big deal if I do get a bite. However, cases of Lyme Disease and other insect-borne illnesses are constantly on the rise, so it’s important to take tick prevention seriously, especially when it’s not that hard to do.
In Minnesota, tick season starts in May and runs through the summer, but be sure to stay on your guard for your fall hikes. By September, the ticks have reached adulthood, meaning they’re still active and ready to latch onto anyone who comes their way.
Here are a few ways to prevent ticks on your next hike:
Stay on the trail. Yes, wandering off the beaten path can be tempting, but it’s not worth the risk tick bites. If for any reason you should decide to venture away from the trail, try to stay in clearer areas and not places thick with weeds or tall grass. It’s pretty easy to avoid the unnecessary risk by simply staying on the path.
Keep skin exposure to a minimum. This is easier to do in the fall with the temperatures getting cooler, but even on a warmer day, go for the socks and hiking shoes rather than your sandals. Scarves or jackets that have a higher collar are also a good idea to ensure that your neck stays protected.
Use bug spray. Anytime you’re going into a wooded area, bug spray is a must. It will not only keep away the last few mosquitoes hanging around, but it can also protect against ticks. You can apply bug spray that has DEET–an active ingredient that repels bugs–directly on your skin while on clothing, sprays that include permethrin can be applied to last for numerous washes. There are also several natural options (such as sprays with lemon and eucalyptus oil) that work well if you want to avoid chemicals.
Wear clothing that repels insects. If you’re not crazy about dousing your clothes in bug spray, then go with clothing that’s already treated with insect repellent. BugsAway® apparel by Exofficio features Insect Shield® technology that repels ticks, mosquitoes, fleas, and other nasty insects that cause disease. Browse everything from socks and base layer tops to dresses and hats to gear up before you venture into the woods.
After your hike, be sure to check yourself, along with your bag or backpack, for any ticks. If you find one, remove it right away with tweezers and clean the area thoroughly. It’s always best, though, to prevent bites before they can happen, so make sure you have all of the proper hiking clothing and accessories so that you can enjoy your next hike while remaining tick free.