Children, Outdoor Workers, and Hikers: Who is Most at Risk from Tick-Borne Diseases?

Make Well - hiker

Being bitten by a tick can result in contracting a tick-borne disease such as Lyme disease. This condition can be difficult to treat and can include sometimes debilitating symptoms. Ticks are often found in woodland areas or places with long, overgrown grass. But who is the most at risk for contracting a tick-borne disease? Here’s a look at who’s in danger and some tips on how to protect yourself from getting a tick bite.

 

Children

Children are at great risk for getting bitten by ticks because they typically spend lots of time outdoors. Children who live in rural areas are at an even greater risk. If your child is going to be playing outside in nature, encourage them to wear long sleeves and trousers and to keep their shoes on. When your child comes back inside, it’s important for you to do a full physical inspection to check for ticks on their body. Don’t forget to examine creases (such as behind their knees or between their toes) and their scalp. You can also use a comb and magnifying glass to look for ticks on their head and in their hair. If you find a tick, remove it carefully with tweezers or a tick removal kit. If they have been bitten, take them in for a checkup at the doctor’s office in case the tick was a carrier for Lyme disease.

 

Make Well - tree surgeon
Working outdoors may increase your risk of contracting tick-borne diseases.

 

Outdoor workers

People who work outdoors are much more likely to be bitten by ticks than office workers. Anyone who works in wooded areas or places with grass or bushes can be in a danger zone. Workers should consider wearing long sleeves and trousers to cover up, as well as a hat to keep their scalps safe. They can treat their clothing with permethrin, which is an insecticide that lasts up to six weeks and doesn’t need to be reapplied often. Workers who wear a uniform can consider using this so they’ll be protected when they head outdoors. If they have any skin that’s still exposed (like arms or hands), workers can apply an insecticide to deter ticks. Workers should inspect their bodies as soon as they come back inside to see if any ticks have landed on them. Consistent exposure to nature and tick habitats (like wood piles, fallen logs, or dead leaves) means that workers will have to be cautious about avoiding contact with ticks.

 

Hikers

Although hiking can be a fun activity, it can also put you at risk for contracting a tick-borne disease. If you want to stay as safe as possible, try to stick to the middle of paths or trails when you’re out in nature. Ticks are more likely to be found in woodland than on a clear path. As stated above, it’s important to cover up your skin by wearing long sleeves, trousers, and closed-toe shoes. As soon as you come back from a hike, inspect your body for tick bites. It’s also a good idea to take a shower so that the water can wash away any unattached ticks (and clean the skin of any leftover insect repellent that you may have used). If you do find a tick on you after your hike, remove it carefully. You also have the option of sending the tick to a lab to see if it’s a carrier for Lyme disease.

 

Make Well - tick
Ticks can be very small - if you spend time outdoors, it's always a good idea to check yourself over to ensure you've not been bitten.

 

Now that you know about the dangers that a child, outdoor worker, or hiker might face, you should remember that anyone present in a tick-infested area runs the risk of being bitten. Here’s a recap of what you can do to prevent getting a tick bite.

 

Cover up

Wear long sleeves, trousers, closed-toe shoes, and a hat if possible. Try sticking to light-coloured clothes so that you’ll instantly be able to tell if a tick is on you. For an extra precaution, tuck your socks into your trousers so that there’s no exposed skin.

 

Apply insect repellent

Spray insect repellent to any skin that’s showing. You can apply it, let it dry, and then reapply every two to three hours in warm weather. There’s also the option of using permethrin directly on your clothes. This only has to be reapplied every couple of months. Some people like to use more natural remedies like oil of lemon eucalyptus on their skin to help deter ticks.

 

Keep your garden tick-free

You can make sure your home is safe as well by ensuring your garden is not tick-friendly. For example, try to get rid of overgrown grass, woodland areas, or wood piles where ticks can congregate. You also might want to consider creating tick barriers by adding wood chips or bark around any perimeters where there’s bushes or grass. This can prevent the ticks from getting too close to areas of your garden where you and your family spend time.

 

Stick to the paths

If you’re out in nature, stick to marked paths or trails as much as possible. You’re less likely to come across ticks if you’re staying near areas with less undergrowth or dead leaves.

 

Protect your pets

Your pets won’t be able to directly spread Lyme disease to you, but they can bring ticks into your garden or home. You should protect them by using tick-preventative medications or by giving them a canine Lyme vaccination. Make sure to check your pets for ticks anytime they come indoors after spending time outside.

 

Whether your kids are playing outside or you’re going for a hike, remember that no one is immune to the dangers of a tick bite. Just follow these helpful tips to stay protected against tick-borne diseases.