I Learned To Avoid Ticks … After Catching Lyme

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Hiking in tall grass is a common way to get ticks.

Summer is high season for camping, hiking, and picnicking. It also means it’s tick season. These small black or brown bugs that latch onto other animals and drink their blood. (Gross, I know.)

Tick season is predicted to be especially bad this summer. The CDC released a study showing insect-borne illnesses rising each year, with no signs of slowing down.

I hate to jump on the bandwagon, but I just learned first-hand about the link between ticks and Lyme disease. I don’t consider myself an incredibly outdoorsy person, so Lyme was never on my radar.

But this summer vacation, on a trip to an outdoor museum, I was bitten by a tick. About a day later I noticed the signature rash around the bite, which looks something like a bulls-eye.

Spider or tick? No major symptoms so I think I'm fine #spiderbite #tickbite

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I still wasn’t convinced that I had Lyme until my parents took me to a specialist, who diagnosed me and put me on a strict antibiotic regimen to quickly treat it. If you catch it early like I did (THANK GOD), Lyme is completely treatable. Otherwise, it can be a gnarly, long-lasting disease.

I was lucky enough to get the rash, but if I hadn’t, I would never have known until symptoms showed up — possibly years later.

So, for those who’ve never given it much thought, here are some tips I just learned to help avoid ticks:

  1. Wear long pants and tuck them into your socks. Yes, it looks nerdy, but this is one of the most important tips for keeping ticks from latching on to you.
  2. Avoid sitting in tall, dry grass. Ticks love to hang out there. Duh, right? This was my mistake.
  3. When you come home, put the clothes you hiked in into the dryer on high heat for around 30 minutes to kill any ticks hiding in them.
  4. Check your body for ticks after you come inside. Pay close attention to your hairline, armpits, and other places that don’t see the sun.
  5. Shower! A great way to get rid of any ticks that haven’t fully latched on is to simply wash them off. +10 points if you use a loofah.

I was really shocked by some of the common activities where you’re most vulnerable to ticks. They love to hide in old wood, so the most dangerous things to do are:

  1. Collecting firewood.
  2. Sitting on logs.
  3. Sitting on wooden benches. (Always choose a metal bench if you have the option.)

If you do get a tick stuck on you, you can learn how to safely remove a tick here:

Lastly, I’m not a doctor. So call yours if you develop a bulls-eye rash or experience flu-like symptoms, especially during the summer, after getting a bug bite. For more (authoritative!) information on ticks and Lyme disease go here.

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