Talking to Times-Tribune Staff Writer David Singleton, an expert on things both dangerous and icky, changed my mind. Dave brilliantly covers a bunch of environmental stuff for us and lately it’s been all about ticks and how dangerous they actually can be. I honestly never really gave them a bunch of thought until a few years ago when one of those little suckers embedded itself in my thigh. I luckily escaped without any damage but went through with the doctor’s visit and Lyme testing.

Today, it’s hard to escape the fact that ticks are a legit problem or at least something that needs your attention if you are going to spend any time outside. In talking to Dave the other day, I asked him a simple question: “Is the tick problem really worse today or are we just more aware because of social media?”

“Oh, there are more … for sure,” Dave said.

Good enough for me.

So now ticks are something I consider when I’m going to be hiking. In fact, they are pretty high on the list of things I worry about because Lyme disease will lay you out. Not convinced? Here are some of the lovely things that come with Lyme, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Severe headaches and neck stiffness
  • Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly the knees and other large joints
  • Facial palsy (loss of muscle tone or droop on one or both sides of the face)
  • Intermittent pain in tendons, muscles, joints and bones
  • Heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat
  • Episodes of dizziness or shortness of breath
  • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
  • Nerve pain
  • Shooting pains, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Problems with short-term memory

Yeah, I’ll pass.

But I’m not going to let a little bug get the best of me, so I made some adjustments to what I wear and how I prepare to hit the trails. Here’s a checklist.

  1. Pants. Shorts are a no-no. This was a hard adjustment. I LOVE wearing shorts. I now wear Prana Zion Stretch pants, in case you are wondering.
  2. Long-sleeve shirt (I just try to find lightweight ones that are not made of cotton). I usually find discounted ones at REI.
  3. I treat my clothes with permethrin. You can pick this up at outdoor retailers. It’s worth spraying your clothes. Keep in mind that DEET will repel ticks pretty well, but permethrin is the nuclear bomb. It will kill ticks after 30 seconds of exposure.
  4. You should wear light-colored clothing to make ticks easier to spot. I frequently break this rule because I wear a lot of black.
  5. Check yourself thoroughly after a hike and brush those bad boys away if you find them.
  6. It’s also a good idea to check your backpack when you get home. The last thing you want is to bring those buggers into your home.

Maybe I’m just getting more cautious as I get older, but ticks are serious business. They can cause a ton of damage. If you want evidence, just kick around Google and find stories and interviews with people dealing with Lyme disease. You’ll probably find yourself seeking a little protection as well.