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Why protecting yourself from mosquitos and ticks is no joke

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When preparing for an outdoor adventure, neglecting to consider the risks brought on by mosquitos, ticks and other bugs can be a costly mistake. By being proactive when selecting your camping equipment or bike gear, you can reduce the possibility of having a close encounter with any sort of unwanted biting insect.

Not only can a bite be quite painful or irritating, but these creatures can also harbor very dangerous diseases. Whether in a suburban green space or a rugged national park, understanding and addressing this problem is important for any excursion in the great outdoors.

Mosquito safety
Dealing with these flying insects can be difficult, because they can swarm in the the thousands, even in areas with dense human development. There are a number of different types of mosquitos in the U.S., and many can transmit infectious diseases such as West Nile virus and malaria, as well as parasites and other illnesses. Likewise, it is easy to itch mosquito bites to the point of rash or infection, also posing a health risk on the trail. Be sure to research what diseases are found in your area and familiarize yourself with any symptoms or warnings. 

A mosquito bite can lead to disease and sickness.
A mosquito bite can lead to disease and sickness.

Protecting yourself from mosquitos starts with wearing the right clothing. Select some pants that are light and comfortable but fully cover your legs. Next, consider a jacket or long-sleeved shirt to make sure your forearms are also safe from harm. Dressing in layers is also helpful when dealing with inclement weather.

If you are spending extended time in the outdoors – especially near standing water where mosquitos like to breed – be sure to invest in a good bug spray. For an overnight trip, bringing along a mosquito net can keep the pesky bugs out of your tent. 

Tick safety
Unlike mosquitos ticks are arachnids, not insects. That means they are in the same family as spiders and scorpions, but instead of hunting down prey, ticks operate as parasites. While mosquitos leave an itchy, irritating bite and then fly away, the parasitic ticks will painlessly latch on to a host body, and can gorge themselves on human blood undetected for days.

Like mosquitos, these bugs can harbor dangerous ailments, most notably Lyme disease. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that smaller parasites, bacteria and other pathogens live inside of ticks and are transferred when the animal has bitten into a host.

Ticks spend time in brush piles and long grasses, and can latch on to your skin even if you are traveling at a high speed. Bug spray with DEET is effective at repelling ticks, and clothing like high socks and long-sleeved shirts can keep the ticks from biting into you.

"Examine your body fully after spending time outdoors."

The most important step for tick safety is to examine your body fully after spending time outdoors. Inspect your limbs and extremities, as well as your stomach or back. Protective clothing is a good deterrent, but you need to inspect your entire body to make sure you haven't been bitten. 

If you have been bitten, use a pair of tweezers to grab the animal by the head and remove it entirely. This step is critical, because the jaws could get stuck under your skin if you only rip away the abdomen, which can lead to further infection. Place the tick on a piece of tape to be examined by a doctor if you show any signs of illness. Lyme disease is famous for causing a ring-like marking around the bite, but other rashes or skin issues can arise. Check with a doctor immediately if a tick bite shows any abnormalities.

Bees and other insects
There are plenty of other flying creatures that can cause problems when out on the trail. Horseflies and other bugs can deliver nasty bites, while spiders and wasps may be quite poisonous. It is wise to familiarize yourself with any local species that carry an elevated risk and to be methodical when traveling outdoors.

The sting from a common honey bee may not be particularly painful, especially compared to that of a wasp or hornet, but because many people have strong allergic reactions to bee stings, these insects can represent a great hazard. It is imperative that you are aware of any allergies when heading out on your trek and to be cautious if you find a hive. Anyone with a strong allergy should travel with a friend or family member that knows how to administer an epinephrine injection and should carry a cell phone or radio to call for help if needed.

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About Stephane Marchiori

Owner of Cyclocamping.com
Bike touring since 2003, including:
a 5-Year Bicycle Journey Around The World!

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