Camping with pets and kids is challenging, yes, but it can be a whole lot of fun! Watching dogs sniff and explore and hike and splash in mountain streams and lakes is always a joy. Watching kids experience new things and find wildlife and hike trails and eat sticky s’mores by the campfire – well, those are the memories that last a lifetime.
The one thing you don’t want to remember from a camping trip? Ticks.
While normal bugs are annoying as they swarm your tasty skin and you swat them away, ticks don’t leave. In fact, they stick even closer to you by burrowing into your skin. Not only are they annoying for humans and dogs, they can also cause diseases like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Powassan virus. All in all, a tick incident can derail an otherwise very pleasant day. In this article, we’ll discuss how to avoid ticks when camping, and what you should do if you discover a tick on yourself, someone else, or your pet.
How to avoid ticks when camping
Prevention is the most pleasant solution to a tick problem. If you take a few steps ahead of time, you may never need to know the unpleasant sensation of having to remove a tick from your skin or from your irritated dog. Here are tips for how to prevent tick bites while camping.
1.) Do your research
Talk to campground staff or park rangers before your trip and ask about the best areas to camp so that you avoid ticks. Park websites will also often post tick warnings and advice, so be sure to read up online. Ticks like moist, dark environments so camp away from woods or shaded marshy areas. Watch for piles of leaves – ticks like those dark, damp rotting leaves! Avoid high grasses, where ticks will hang on to tall blades of grass while getting ready to jump to a new host. Sunny, dry camping spots are your best bet for tick avoidance.
2.) Dress carefully
Ticks look for ways to get to your bare skin, so tuck pantlegs into your socks, tuck shirts into pants, and wear light, long sleeves to prevent ticks from getting access to your arms and legs. You may even want to wear a button-up shirt and pop the collar up to protect more of your skin. Choose lighter-colored clothing so that if a tick lands on you, you’ll notice it faster. You can also buy tick-repellant clothing to wear while camping.
3.) Pack repellent
Use a tick spray. The most effective tick repellents contain DEET, and the CDC recommends sprays with at least 20% DEET. Follow the instructions for applying repellent very carefully, avoiding hands, eyes, and mouth. If you need tick repellent for a child, be sure to talk to a pediatrician before your trip to see what they recommend, and if you are pregnant, be sure to consult with your doctor before using any repellents. Wash the repellent off once you’re indoors. Also, apply repellent to your shoes also. Many ticks gain access to people from the ground, and repellent on your shoes can cut down your exposure by a lot. Also, apply repellent to the inside of your clothes so that if ticks manage to crawl under them, you can still prevent getting bitten.
How to keep ticks out of your tent
Along with keeping ticks off of you, you’ll want to keep them far away from your tent and sleeping areas!
4.) Watch where you hike
To avoid ticks when you’re out hiking, be sure to hike in the center of the trail to avoid long grasses and other vegetation that ticks enjoy.
5.) Protect your head
Be sure to wear a hat to protect your head from the bugs, and secure your long hair so ticks can’t catch a ride.
How to check for ticks
When you return to camp, check yourself and your children for ticks. You’ll want to look at armpits, backs of knees, around the waistband, in bellybuttons, between the legs, in and around ears, and on the scalp to make sure you didn’t pick up any unwanted hitchhikers. If possible, shower after you get back. If you can’t shower, wash as much of yourself as you can with a washcloth or rub yourself down with a small, dry towel to help you spot and remove any detached ticks.
What to do if you find a tick
If you do happen to find camping ticks, here’s what to do next:
1.) Take a picture
If you need to follow up with a doctor later, it’s helpful to have a picture of the bug that bit you.
2.) Remove the tick with tweezers
Don’t attempt to pull the tick out with your fingers. The CDC recommends removing a tick with fine-tipped tweezers by pulling upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t jerk or twist, that can cause part of the tick to break off and remain in the skin.
3.) Dispose of the tick
Never crush a tick with your fingers. You can dispose of the tick by submerging it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag or container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.
4.) After removing, clean the area
Clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
5.) When to follow up
If you don’t feel well, develop a fever, or break out in a rash within several weeks of your bite, be sure to see a doctor. However, the first 24-48 hours are usually key in the transmission of tick-borne diseases. If you visit a doctor, give them all the information you can about the bite and bring any pictures you took.
How do I keep my dog from getting ticks while camping
If you’re bringing your dog along camping with you, it’s a good idea to check with a veterinarian before you leave. There are several ways to prevent ticks on dogs, including topical or oral medications and tick collars to repel the bugs. You should not plan on using the same repellent you use on your pet. Try to keep your dog out of areas where ticks are known to live, including damp, shady spots and tall grasses.
How to remove ticks from your dog
You should check your dog for ticks after a day spent hiking or camping. Look inside his ears, between the toes, on paws, under tails, in arm creases, on stomachs, and under collars. Run your hands along your dog and feel for small bumps. Look for dark spots.
If you find a tick on your pet, remove it the same way you would from a human. With a pair of tweezers, pull the tick out slowly without twisting or jerking it. You can also use a tick remover, which you should press against your pets’ skin close to the tick. Slide the hook of the remover under the tick and pull free.
After you remove the tick, dispose of it in a sealed plastic bag or container, submerge it in alcohol, or flush it down a toilet. Clean the bite area on your pet with antiseptic, and clean the tools you used with rubbing alcohol.