Wanderbirds Hiking Club

Things you should know about Ticks

Ticks are pests that may bother hikers, especially in spring and summer months. They may carry serious diseases, so it is important to know how to recognize them, avoid them, and respond to them properly if you come in contact with them.

There are three types of tick in our area that hikers should be aware of. These are the deer tick or black-legged tick, the wood tick or American dog can be a serious illness, and because it is very tiny and difficult to see (no bigger than a pin-head). The wood tick is much larger and therefore easier to detect. It be readily treated.

Wood-ticks on the left; deer ticks on the right. A & H are engorged females.
E is the deer tick nymph stage, which is the most dangerous.

The mature Lone Star tick is also a larger tick, but both the mature female and the larvae are voracious feeders. They have been thought to carry diseases, but a serious concern is that people who have been bitten may, after weeks to months, develop an allergy to a carbohydrate substance carried by red meat in the diet. The allergy can produce severe to life-threatening allergic symptoms (intestinal pset; hives; anaphylaxis) that occurs 3 to 6 hours after a meal that includes red meat (including beef, lamb, and pork). The incidence of this complication is said to be rare, but the numbers reported are increasing. A test is available to determine if you have become allergic to the tick-associated carbohydrate.

Mature Lone Star tick. The white spot on
the back is the distinguishing characteristic.

The links below will take you to sites that provide authoritative information about ticks.

CDC Lyme disease fact sheet provides a fact sheet about deer ticks and Lyme disease. It also shows how to remove ticks.

Tickinfo.com provides lots of information about ticks of various types. After reading the general information, find information about each type of tick by clicking on the appropriate button at the left of the screen.Wanderbirds does not endorse any of the commercial materials listed by this site.

Lone Star link will take you to a Wikipedia article that discusses the Lone Star tick and its association with red meat allergy.

Ticks are most numerous in areas with high grass and shrubs. When hiking, try to avoid, as much as possible, brushing against grass and other plants. It may seem inviting to plonk yourself down on soft grass for lunch. NOT A GOOD IDEA! After passing through a grassy area, stop and inspect yourself, including your socks and trousers, for ticks. Ask a fellow hiker to look at the backs of your legs. Repeat your inspection after the hike and again when you return home. Look and feel around hairlines for ticks that may have begun to embed.

Permethrin-impregnated clothing and DEET spray may offer some protection.

If you develop fever, joint pains, or sudden paralysis of one side of your face (Bell's palsy), see your doctor immediately and make sure he or she knows you are a hiker and have been exposed to ticks.

If you develop hives or difficulty breathing several hours after eating meat, CALL FOR AN AMBULANCE AT ONCE. In the emergency room tell the physician that you are a hiker and may have been bitten by a Lone Star tick.