Don’t let outdoor activities get on your nerves

As the weather gets colder across the country, more and more people are taking the opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities. Whether it’s camping, hiking or hunting, an infectious disease expert from Baylor College of Medicine shares tips on how to prevent tick bites this fall.

“There are many things you can do preventively before and after your outdoor activities,” said Dr. Jill Weatherhead, assistant professor of pediatrics – tropical medicine and infectious diseases at Baylor. “Having these precautions ready and in place will help mitigate contact with vectors like ticks and reduce the risk of contracting illnesses associated with these types of bites.”

Different types of ticks live in different parts of the country and transmit different diseases. However, the precautions are the same no matter where you go. Ticks are more common in wooded areas that are grassier and have lots of leaf debris on the ground.
Before heading outside, Weatherhead suggests wearing clothes that cover your body and don’t leave skin exposed. Clothing can be pretreated with permethrin to repel ticks, and insect repellents containing DEET can also be helpful.

When outdoors, be sure to stay on the path or trail and avoid heavily wooded areas.

After spending time outdoors, it’s important to check your body, clothing, gear, and pets for ticks. Be sure to check places you might not think of, like your armpits, along your waistline, and along your hairline. If you’re bitten by a tick, you won’t have any symptoms right away, so it’s important to get a physical exam.

If you find a tick, remove it as soon as possible.

“The longer they’re on your body, the more likely they are to transmit infectious pathogens,” Weatherhead said.
Monitor symptoms and alert your healthcare provider if you develop symptoms such as a rash or fever, which may be associated with a tick-borne illness.

Different ticks can transmit different types of infectious diseases, all of which can have significant long-term acute and chronic effects depending on the degree of infection.

“There really can be consequences from the transmission of infectious pathogens that live inside ticks,” Weatherhead said.

Treatment for infectious diseases caused by tick bites can vary depending on the type of infection, so talk to your health care provider.

Weatherhead said there was no need to panic. You should get out and explore, but arm yourself with the right information to help prevent exposure to ticks.