Recently, a study showed that Lyme disease increased 82 percent over a five-year period in Indiana. It sounds pretty bad, but that's just 62 cases in 2009 (latest data), up from 34 in 2005.
Unfortunately, ticks are a fact of life for those who love to be outdoors. In just about any wilderness setting, there are thousands of ticks just waiting for a chance to hitch a free ride and make a meal of you. Don't let that stop you from going outdoors, but do take the time to protect yourself.
These simple steps can help you avoid tick bites and tick-borne diseases.
1) Wear protective clothing. Especially important are long pants, which should be tucked into high socks. Ticks generally latch on to a passing critter and crawl up looking for a spot to burrow in and feed. If you wear light colors, it will be easier to spot the ticks.
2) Use a DEET-based insect repellent around your ankles, wrists and on your neck. Put repellent on your clothing at the entry points, not just on your skin. While there are many excellent non-Deet insect repellents on the market, none (that we have found so far) are particularly effective against ticks.
3) If you can, when returning from an outdoor adventure, disrobe outside your house or your tent to avoid bringing ticks in with you.
4) Check yourself carefully at the end of any outdoor adventure. Incorporate a tick check into your routine at the end of your activity. It only takes a few minutes and is a small price to pay for preventing Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or one of the many other tick-borne diseases prevalent in the US.
5) Carefully remove any ticks you find by pulling gently backward away from the bite site with tweezers. Killing ticks can be difficult - they are pretty tough for something so small. It is best to flush them. If you are on a trip where you are likely to be regularly exposed, carry a small bottle with rubbing alcohol in it. Just drop the tick in, put the cover back on, and go about your business. If your prevention methods fail, and a tick attaches to you, don't panic; it takes 24 hours for any disease to be released into you. After removing the tick, draw a circle around the bite with a pen, and monitor it for changes. See your doctor immediately if you develop any disease symptoms like swelling, a rash, etc.
As always, prevention is key. Take time to adequately protect yourself and you are far less likely to ever have to deal with tick bites.