Volunteer Monitoring 101 Lesson Six: Ticks Impact Hot Trends in 2012 Outdoor Wear

There was a lot of talk this spring about ticks. A lot of opinions and theories swirled around about why this year was going to be a big year for ticks, mostly related to the weather, acorns, and the presence of certain rodent species. Now, as someone who professionally and recreationally spends time in the woods, I paid attention to these reports. I talked to friends and co-workers, wondering truly if there was a tick-ocalypse looming on our horizon and how bad it would be.

Dog ticks - image courtesy http://www.tickencounter.org

My nemesis – American Dog ticks. Image courtesy University of Rhode Island’s TickEncounter Resource Center www.tickencounter.org

Would I get a tick?
How would I remove it?
What about diseases?

With so many questions crowding my mind I got down to business thoroughly researching everything I could find about ticks. I took notes and checked sources, researched local physicians (just in case) and committed species attributes to memory.

In other words I used Google and called my Mom.

Mom turned out to be the best source of information; in addition to being an RN, her practical advice and motherly love both soothed me and boosted my confidence that ticks were something I could handle. Thanks Mom!

My peace of mind came just in time; I got my first tick ever a few days later during a weekend outdoor land trust event. Overcast, blustery, with temps hovering in the 40s the weather made sure I was bundled head to toe. We had a great event and I spent a lot of time walking through the fields and woods at the site. When I started hearing that attendees were finding ticks on themselves I immediately felt every rustle and tickle against my skin as a creeping crawling tick. I couldn’t wait to get home and check myself.

Bundled up for an April outdoor event - and first tick experience.

April 1, 2012 at the site of my first tick encounter. If you look closely at the far left under the tent I am visible making a face indicative of how blustery/cold this day was.

Now for a brief disclaimer; there are many resources out there regarding ticks, tick removal, tick repellants, and tick diseases. I am not one of them. Please exercise your best judgment and never hesitate to consult a medical professional if you have been bitten by a tick.

My method combines sight and touch. I run my hands over as much of my skin as possible; this is supposed to help you locate the ticks too tiny to see easily. Then I strip down and thoroughly check myself in the mirror, using two mirrors if I have to see behind me. It was during this process that I saw a suspicious looking freckle on my under-arm – this freckle had legs. Lucky for me my Mom was visiting and the tick had only just latched on. She deftly removed it, plopped it into an old pickle jar, and froze it so I’d have it on hand to show to a doctor just in case I had any kinds of symptoms later on.

This incident turned out to be an ice breaker of sorts. I had a tick, it creeped me out, but I could handle it AND I didn’t get sick. Not even a sniffle. Although I remained symptom free I found myself motivated to find the flaw in my clothing that allowed this thing to touch me. My best guess theory, since I was bundled up, was that the tick made its way to my arm by slipping in around my collar or up my sleeve. Short of wearing a full body leotard I knew I couldn’t come up with a flawless plan but I had a few I thought worth trying.

My "in-office" look (and adoring accessory) versus my tick-induced fashion choice for monitoring.

My “in-office” look (and adoring accessory) versus my tick-induced fashion choice for monitoring (GPS accessory).

I was preparing for my next monitoring visit a few weeks later when the landowner called me to let me know their forester had noted a heavy tick presence on the property. Great. On the upside I’d get to test out my new outfit! For this visit I opted to try out some stretch pants, socks pulled as high as they could go over the bottoms and a base-layer shirt tucked into the top. All I needed was coke-bottle glasses and suspenders and I could pass for a Steve Urkel impersonator! (A character from the 1980’s-90’s sitcom ‘Family Matter’s’).   Instead I topped my off my look with a bandana tied around my head and a backwards hat.

My thought was to limit the places ticks could contact skin, particularly the hard to see places like in my hair. My husband, less inclined to wear stretch pants than myself, opted for the comfort of shorts but pulled his socks up to an admirable height and also tucked in his shirt and wore a hat. We were quite the pair and fancied ourselves the envy of posh 2012 summer clothing designers.

And it all worked! Or so I thought. We spent a few hours hiking through some pretty thick underbrush, a fantastical glade of giant ferns, and some ledge-y hillsides. When we got home we checked him first since he had more exposed skin – all good! And then it was my turn, I did a quick scan of myself and then asked my husband to check me. As soon as I started to rotate around he let out a squawk,

“Ahhh! You’ve got one!”

Tick removal supplies

Tick removal supplies and a jar not unlike my trusty pickle jar.

Sure enough, there was one saucy little tick attached to, let’s say, the side of the cheek your great-great Auntie wouldn’t want to kiss. Nothing vulgar here folks, it would have been visible had I picked it up wearing my swimsuit, however, the location is worth sharing to warn against the perils of NOT checking yourself thoroughly. Ticks don’t care that your unmentionables are, well, unmentionable. For me taking one look at an engorged tick was enough to want to make sure nothing that looked like THAT was anywhere on my person.

So, it was a very inconvenient spot, and my husband jumped to my rescue. With the focus of a surgeon he removed the tick and then we both stifled giggles at the nature of my tick ‘emergency’. All was well in a matter of minutes. I still can’t fathom how it got there but I’ll be back at the drawing board for the next look in my anti-tick fashion line. I hear duct tape is all the rage…

Anna Slack
Programs Coordinator, Volunteer Monitor, Fashion Pioneer

Thank you: IMDB.com for information about my beloved childhood show, ‘Family Matters’ and University of Rhode Island TickEncounter Resource Center for information in general!

 

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Anti-tick sock placement.

More images of our anti-tick outfits (tactical sock placement) – thumbs up!

  • Katrinkad5

    Enjoyed and empathized with your story. After many years of hiking and outside activities completely tick-free, I was totally creeped out to find one on my scalp. I had just calmed down when I found a second one 2 weeks later, again on my scalp. Although, admittedly, not tall, my head is several feet above the ground. Ticks seem to have prodigious jumping abilities.

  • 4peaches

    It helps to wear white or pastels.

  • Anna_Slack

    Hmm, I’ve never heard of pastels. Guess I’ll be adding pastel fashions to my experimental anti-tick outdoor line! Thanks for writing! ~Anna

  • Anna_Slack

    Thankfully I’ve not had that experience yet, but I’m dreading it. Finding one on my head is something I’ve been worried about (hence the bandanna). I’ve not heard of ticks jumping, I do know they can climb FAST, I’ve seen it. I’ve also heard that they hang out on the tips of leaves/grasses and when something passes by they get brushed onto the unsuspecting creature. I am serious about the duct tape, I’ll try a few more experiments and do a follow up fashion post. Thanks for your comments! ~Anna

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  • Kurt

    Being tick season is going to start soon, I thought I would share my almost tick proof method. I wear long pants with winter gators around my ankles, and a black fly bug shirt with a hood to protect my head and arms. when I am done hiking, I will check my clothing prior to getting into the car, and the next day I will check my car seat for any ticks that I missed. I have found several ticks crawling on me as I am driving to work the next day. Kurt

  • Anna_Slack

    Thanks Kurt! These are great tips, especially checking your car seats, I’ve never thought of that! Is a black fly bug shirt something special? I know a farmer who, when he refers to ‘black fly’ clothing, means something he has coated in vaseline!

  • kurt.gott@valley.net

    Hello Anne, the bug shirt I use is made out of mosquito netting. It has long sleeves and a hood. Last year they were being sold at West Lebanon feed store. The brand I like and has survived several seasons of bushwhacking is called No –Seem- um Baffler. They have a web site at
    http://www.bugbaffler.com/

    Kurt

  • Anna_Slack

    Thanks Kurt! One of these is going on my gear ‘wish list’.