Avoiding a tick bite is the best protection against tick-borne illnesses, including one that's more dangerous than Lyme disease. Enjoy the great outdoors with our expert-approved advice.
Why you need to take precautions
Ticks can be infected with bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Some of the most common tick-borne diseases in the United States include Lyme disease, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lyme disease causes fever, headache, fatigue and a skin rash, and if left untreated, can spread to a person's joints, heart, and nervous system. Of particular concern is Powassan disease, which is reportedly on the rise. Marked by fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures and memory loss, this tick-borne illness may cause long-term neurological damage, according to the CDC.
Stay the course
"Avoid heavily wooded areas and shrubbery as these are more likely to harbor ticks," says infectious disease specialist Sunil Sood, MBBS, chairman of pediatrics at Northwell Health's Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, NY. In other words, don't go bushwhacking or run off into the brushes. "Ticks climb onto blades of grass and brush on the side of trails, so walk in the center of a trail and try not to brush up against grass and make sure to avoid leaf litter too," adds Sunjya Schweig, MD, member of the board of adviser for the Bay Area Lyme Foundation and the CEO and co-director of the California Center for Functional Medicine in Berkeley, Calif. "Ticks also like to congregate under logs or trees, so don't take a break by sitting under an oak tree or on a log." Curious to learn more? Check out the world from a tick's perspective.
If you are planning to hike or spend time in a park or recreational area, ask a forest ranger or another official about the current tick situation, says tick expert John Abbott, PhD, director of museum research and collections at the University of Alabama Museums in Tuscaloosa.