Ticks – What Every Woodsman Should Know – (Dangers, Prevention, and Treatment)

Adult Deer Tick

As I mentioned in my previous post, The Real and Not-So-Real Dangers of Being in the Woods, ticks are much more of a concern than most people realize. Here is a brief post about the dangers of ticks, how to avoid them, how to treat for them, and the possible diseases that they carry.

Spending a lot of time outdoors in the Appalachian Mountains, I’ve found more than a few ticks on my body and on my clothing. Three of my four children have had ticks “dug in” and I’ve had more dug in to my skin than I can remember. During one outdoor adventure (care of Uncle Sam) at Fort Pickett, Virginia, I found seven attached ticks in as many days. Although I’ve had quite a few encounters, I am by no means an expert and would love to hear from anyone with any additional insight about ticks or their diseases.

Types of Ticks
There are a wide variety of tick species found throughout the world. Most that I encounter here in the Appalachians are the relatively harmless dog ticks. They can carry disease but are not nearly as prone to causing medical concerns as the deer tick. It is important to understand that ALL TICKS CAN CARRY AND TRANSMIT DISEASES. We mostly hear of Lyme Disease spread through deer ticks but they all can carry a wide variety of diseases that will affect humans.

Adult Deer Tick

Adult Deer Tick
Public Domain Photo

Deer Ticks
Rightfully so, most people are concerned with deer ticks. Deer ticks, or Ixodes scapularis (eastern black-legged deer tick) or Ixodes pacificul (western black-legged deer tick), are small hard-bodied ticks found throughout the United States. They are usually about the size of a sesame seed and are quite difficult to find on the human body. They are named deer ticks because their preferred host is white-tail deer.

Engorged Ixodes scapularis or eastern black-legged deer tick

Engorged Deer Tick
Public Domain Photo

Lyme Disease
There are a number of diseases that ticks can carry and transmit but they are most known for Lyme Disease. Lyme Disease is caused by a bacteria often carried by deer ticks and can become a serious illness if not treated properly. Early symptoms can include headache, fever, fatigue, depression and a circular skin rash most often called a “bull’s eye.” If not treated, Lyme Disease can affect the heart, the joints, and the central nervous system. Most often, antibiotics will treat the disease but only if it is diagnosed and treated early.

Erythma migrans or bulls-eye associated with Lyme Disease

A Skin Rash Similar to a Bulls-Eye is a Common Symptom of Lyme Disease
Photo by Hannah Garrison

Where Do Ticks Live
Ticks live in moist environments. They are found in wooded or grassy areas and are prone to live in dead leaves and shrubs.

How To Prevent Ticks
According to the Center for Disease Control, Permethrin should be applied to boots, clothing and camping gear. A DEET repellant should be applied to the skin. Outdoorsmen should avoid areas where ticks are likely to be found, check for ticks often and shower shortly after being outdoors.

How To Check For Ticks
The CDC recommends that you inspect your entire body with a handheld mirror paying particular attention to the following areas:

  • Under the arms
  • In and around the ears
  • Inside belly button
  • Back of the knees
  • In and around the hair
  • Between the legs
  • Around the waist

Most attached ticks that I have found were in my hair or in the groin area.

Remove Ticks Immediately
Use a pair of tweezers (I often use the needlenose pliers on my Gerber Suspension Multi-tool) to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. It may require a little force to pull them off of you. Be cautious of twisting, jerking, or any movement that may leave parts of the tick on your body. Some experts recommend keeping the tick for analysis in the event of a medical issue.  Keep in mind that many believe that it takes 24 hours for a tick to transmit Lyme Disease.  The faster that it is removed, the better off you are.

If You Had an Attached Tick
Be cautious of flu-like symptoms. Lyme Disease as well as most other types of diseases carried by ticks begin with flu-like symptoms. If you have had a tick and experience headaches, fever, nausea, or any other flu-like symptom, seek medical attention.

If you have any additional information, questions or concerns, please feel free to comment. As I stated before, I am not an expert on this subject and would love to know your thoughts and opinions.


4 thoughts on “Ticks – What Every Woodsman Should Know – (Dangers, Prevention, and Treatment)

  1. Excellent article. I would like to see additional comments regarding inherent dangers associated w outdoors – things such as snakes, bats, mosquitos, etc. Especially informative.

  2. Informative as always. I have heard that if you hold a cotton ball with tea tree oil on it over the tick for a minute it helps to loosen it. Then to place another drop of tea tree oil on the bite location to help it from becoming infected. Just what I have heard.

    • Thanks a lot. I’ve never heard of using tea tree oil. But it actually makes pretty good sense. It would definitely soften up the skin before removing. And a quick “tea tree oil antiseptic” search brings up a lot of info about its antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal properties. I keep a lot of it on hand as I use it prior to wet-shaving so ill keep that in mind. Sounds like a good post for the homestead dad!

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