While hiking has long been lauded for its mental and physical health benefits, it still comes with an element of risk – from sunstroke to tumbles to snakes and getting lost. But there are also tiny dangers we need to be aware of when hiking – ticks.
There are various kinds and species of ticks. Each of them can carry diseases such as Lyme Disease, Tick Fever, Tularemia, and many more.
But you can avoid ticks when hiking. Here are our best tick prevention tips on how to protect yourself from ticks while hiking.
Before leaving the house
These before-the-hike tips will help you to stay tick-free while hiking:
Read up on ticks
Use Google to find out what kind of ticks are likely to be in the area where you’re hiking.
Know in advance what ticks in your area look like and how you’ll deal with them should you encounter one on yourself or another member of your hiking party.
If you have kids, teach them what to look out for and what they should do if they find a tick on their body.
Get a lay of the land
This is one of the best tick prevention tips for a hiking trip. Before you set off on your hike, get familiar with the area your hiking trail will cover. Understand just how prevalent ticks are there, as this will help you understand the kind of measures that you will take to ensure that you stay tick-free. You could call your local parks and wildlife service if you have no luck with Google.
The more prepared you are, the less you’ll worry about ticks when hiking.
Choose light-coloured clothing
We recommended that you wear light-coloured hiking gear. Ticks aren’t particularly small, and wearing light-coloured clothes will help you to easily see a tick that’s crawling on your body.Ticks will be less visible on darker clothes.
If you know the trail you plan to hike has a high concentration of ticks, wear long pants and socks. Shorts are a no-no, no matter how warm the weather is.
Even though it looks dorky, tucking your pant legs into your socks prevents ticks from crawling up from the base of your pants.
You can do the same with your shirt. Tuck it into your pants for extra protection.
Spray permethrin on your clothes, footwear and other hiking gear
Before you set off on your hike, spray permethrin on your footwear, hiking equipment, backpack and clothes. But don’t spray it on yourself.
Permethrin is a kind of insecticide that kills a wide range of bugs, including ticks, mosquitoes and flies on contact, but it doesn’t harm us humans.
It also stays on clothes and hiking gear after being washed, so you’ll continue to benefit from its effects after multiple washes. Some hiking gear and clothing comes with permethrin already on it.
Whenever you use any kind of insect spray for hiking, always check the list of ingredients and components inside the insecticide to ensure that it won’t have any side effects on you and doesn’t have any ingredients you’re allergic to.
Create your own natural tick repellent
If you’d rather avoid chemicals and go for a natural remedy, try one of the following:
- Put a cup of water in a spray bottle, and add 2 cups of distilled white vinegar. The smell of vinegar repels ticks.
- Combine vegetable or almond oil to the mixture above. It works especially well for pets.
If you don’t want to smell like vinegar on the trails, add some essential oil to the mixture.
Add a tick remover to your first-aid kit
If you do get bitten by a tick, a trick remover will get it off. Add it to your hiking first aid kit. Carry the tool in an air-tight bag and put the removed ticks inside the bag as well, just in case you need to identify it later.
Ticks aren’t like a mosquito and other biting insects. They don’t bite and move on. They burrow into your skin and feed.
While on the trail
To avoid tick bites while out hiking, practice the following:
Inspect yourself on a daily basis
This step will usually depend on the area where you are and how long you’re hiking for.
Inspect yourself at least once a day. But, if you’re hiking in an area known to be infested with ticks, then inspect yourself more frequently.
Usually, you won’t feel a bite from a tick – you won’t know it has bitten you. You won’t feel itchy. A tick bite might look like a red bump on your skin. Tick bite symptoms start after a day or two. And they’re unlikely to infect you with anything nasty until 24 to 48 hours after they bite. This is why you need to check yourself every day. You might have a tick on you and not even be aware of it. Sometimes you won’t see the tick – it might have been scratched off or become unattached some other way.
Ticks don’t fall from trees. They also don’t fly or jump. Instead, what they do is detect potential hosts with in-built sensors. When they sense a host, they wait for the host to get really close. Then, they stretch their front legs to climb onto their host, find a warm spot where they’ll start feeding.
The most common areas where ticks feed are the armpits, the waistline or close to the backside. Whenever you’re checking yourself for ticks, here are the places on your body where you should concentrate your checks:
- Under your arms
- Behind your knees
- Between your legs and around your pelvis
- Around your ears
- In your hair
- Around and inside your belly button (especially if you have an innie!)
When it comes to how to avoid ticks while hiking, you’ll find that one of the most effective tips is to get general insect repellant cream. A bug spray for hiking is a no-brainer.
Avoid tick hotspots
Ticks are more likely to be centralised tall grasses and bushy paths. If there’s an alternative route that avoids long grass and where you’ll brush up against the scrub, take the alternative route.
How to remove a tick
Watch this video that shows how to safely remove a tick with a tick remover.
Have you ever been bitten by a tick? I don’t want to jinx myself, but I haven’t. Leeches, yet, but never a tick.
Last modified: April 6, 2019