Protect yourself from tick-borne illnesses

Summer’s here, at least unofficially. When you head for the hills this season, protect yourself from ticks and insects. It’s easy to do, and it’ll save you a lot of anguish.

Ticks aren’t just creepy little crawling arachnids. They also carry some really bad diseases. The big three are Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme disease, and tularemia. But recently, scientists figured out that Lone Star ticks can cause Alpha-gal syndrome, which causes an uncurable red meat allergy.

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about. The thought of developing an allergy to red meat keeps me up at night. I don’t really want the fever, headache, fatigue, chills, aches and nausea associated with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme disease or tularemia, but developing an allergy to a steak is truly horrifying.

At least we don’t have Lone Star ticks in Wyoming. At least not yet. They’re most common in the southeast, but they’re also found in the east and the south central states. And as deer move north and west, they’re bringing Lone Star ticks with them.

The best defense against all of these tick-borne illnesses is protecting yourself from tick bites. When you’re outside, wear long-sleeved shirts and use insect repellant that includes DEET. When you get back home or back to camp, do a thorough full-body tick check. If you find one dug in, grab it with a pair of tweezers and pull it straight out. Don’t twist it, because you’ll probably just pull its back half off, and the head will still be buried in your skin. Don’t squish it until you get it completely out.

People I know who have had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Lyme disease say it’s like having the worst case of the flu they’ve ever had, multiplied by 10. They said it got so bad, they thought they were going to die. And if it’s not treated, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease will kill you. It’s not something you want to ignore.

If you’ve been nailed by a tick, don’t panic. Just pay attention to your body. If you start feeling queasy, achy, sore, or tired, head for the nearest emergency room.

But your best bet is prevention. Keep the ticks at bay this summer.