You may have seen this article on our Facebook page earlier this month about a new tick-borne virus called the Heartland Virus. In my book, ticks are the scariest thing about any outdoor trip. They’re tiny, they hang out in hard to see places on your body, and they can make you really sick. And, especially if you’re in the south, ticks are EVERYWHERE. So what are you supposed to do? Not go climbing from April to September? That’s the Center for Disease Control’s first recommendation: “Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.” Sounds like just about every crag I’ve ever been to.
So, if we decide to politely ignore the CDC’s “avoidance” method as a bunch of fun-crushing nonsense, what’s the next best option? I found a few articles and options for tick prevention, along with how to treat a tick bite. Here are some options and recommendations for you to look into as you venture out on your next trip:
- Carry repellent. Whether it’s a more natural spray like the Repel Lemon Eucalyptus , a bottle of 98% DEET Jungle Juice , take a bottle of insect repellent and use it. I’ve used the Jungle Juice with good results (no ticks) and have been told that the Repel spray is good as well. On the more holistic side, tea tree essential oil mixed with water in a spray bottle or neem oil came up a few times. If you go with the tea tree oil option, it looks like a 50/50 mix of oil and water is the standard. I also found a recommendation for garlic pills for tick prevention, but you really don’t want to do that to your climbing partner.
- Wear pants. Buy a decent pair of zip off pants so you can do your approach in pants and then strip down to shorts when it’s climb time. I’m a big fan of the REI Sahara Convertible pants. Unlike other similar options, these pants don’t make the nylon “swishy” sound when you walk.
- Check yo’self. Take a bath or shower as soon as you can when you get home. When you’re getting all cleaned up, do a full body tick check using a handheld mirror – check under your arms, behind your knees, inside your belly button, between your legs and behind your ears. Oh, and don’t forget to check your hair. It’s also not a bad idea to carry a pack of Action Wipes with you. They contain tea tree and eucalyptus oil, so in addition to making you clean and smell good, you might just get a little bit of bug prevention in the process. If you find a tick on you during your inspections, it’s a good idea to be familiar with how to remove it and what to do next. Lots of good info here.
This list is by no means comprehensive, and I’m not a doctor or any kind of expert, just a climber and outdoor enthusiast trying to make sure that I get to enjoy as much of God’s playground for as long as I can. I’d recommend doing some research on your own before your next trip. A few minutes of preparation can have a big impact on your health. Be prepared. Be safe. Have fun out there.