The long Memorial Day weekend is the official start of camping season. And while hanging in the woodsy outdoors is fun, it increases the risk of being bit by a tick and contracting Lyme disease and other types of tick-borne infections, like Rocky Mountain spotted fever or tularemia. Blacklegged ticks (aka deer ticks), lone star ticks, and American dog ticks are all on the list of things you don't want touching your body.
The first step in protecting yourself is to keep ticks off of you. Wear bug repellent and protective clothing that covers the majority of your skin. Whenever you leave a woodland area, give yourself a tick check — wearing light-colored clothing will make it easier to spot any bugs on you.
Find out how to remove a tick from your body and spot symptoms of Lyme disease when you read more.
If you've been bitten, use tweezers to remove the tick. Do not smother the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly and don't use a hot match. You want to avoid crushing the tick to ensure that the disease-causing bacterium stays inside the tick's body. Pull the entire tick out — mouthparts and all — and wash the area with soapy warm water. The chance of contracting anything is pretty low if If you get the tick out within 24 hours of being bitten. Bitten or not, always seek medical attention if you have any strange symptoms while camping, or after you get home.
Here are the most common symptoms associated with Lyme disease:
- A characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans
If left untreated, the infection can spread to the joints, heart, and nervous system, causing painful symptoms and loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face (called Bell's palsy). A lab test will determine if you have Lyme disease, and a few weeks of antibiotics will successfully treat the infection.