Growing up, I loved exploring Nature and being out in the country. I took advantage of every opportunity to get closer to her, whether it was through hiking, boating, snowboarding, or catching animals. You could say I had an almost intimate relationship with Nature. Immersing myself in Nature became infectious. My problems would melt away and time would disappear, replaced only by that chaotic harmony, which Nature so eloquently embodies. Yeah, she was the perfect escape… or so I thought.
Most logical people are aware that Nature is a force to be reckoned with. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, blizzards, dangerous plants and animals, deadly bacteria and viruses, that’s just the start. There are absolutely no limits to what she is capable of. Nature is so powerful and unpredictable, yet simultaneously magnificent and peaceful. That’s just part of her charm.
At some point, and I am still not sure exactly when, I got a little too intimate with Nature. Apparently I wasn’t using proper protection because, to be frank, I caught a disease. As you can imagine, I was pretty ticked off when I found out. In the time since, I have endured much suffering as a result of this disease. Though I have been apart from Nature for a while, we have remained close in spirit. You might be thinking, “Billy, for all that she put you through, I think it time to move on.” But I know we can work past this, and with time I could forgive her. Maybe even start fresh.
In the meantime, I’ve been seeing someone else. Her name is Netflix. You may know her, I hear she gets around. She has been really good to me. She can be funny, romantic, dramatic, adventurous, informative, or whatever I want really, all at the click of a button! I’ll admit most of the time we spend together seems like a complete waste. The upside is I can’t get any diseases from her (that I know of). Besides, Netflix is not all that different from Nature. I can stream content instantly. Finding a good movie or show is a breeze. There is always a mountain of content to choose from. And with all the new shows becoming available, Netflix continues to grow on me.
Now, for those of you who are trying to break away from Netflix and technology in general (as you should), I want to give some facts and safety tips if you do decide to spend that time with Nature. First off, do not let her intimidate you, because Nature has got a whole lot more to give than take. With that said, being knowledgeable and practicing safe habits around Nature can go a long way in keeping you protected. There are countless ways Nature can harm you, as I mentioned earlier, but I’ll be talking tick safety specifically.
Spring is on the horizon, so if you are planning a date with Nature, it is important to be familiar with the dangers of ticks and how to protect yourself. This subject can get really in-depth, but I am only going to scratch the surface. I will provide links on the bottom for further information. There are a number of species of ticks, but here in the Midwest you want to avoid the infamous blacklegged ticks, also referred to as “deer ticks”. These are the ones that can transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, Borrellia Burdoferi, along with a host of others including Babesia and Bartenella (often called co-infections).
Now the first thing you want to do is be aware of what environment you will be in so you can plan accordingly. Ticks’ main habitat is tall grass and low growing plants, generally in wooded areas. Like today’s country artists, deer ticks are much more active in the spring and summer. So you must be more careful during these seasons, because it’s much harder to avoid recycled lyrics and melodies (oh, and ticks).
Ticks can sense when you brush against a plant or some tall grass and will cling to your skin or clothing. They primarily start low and crawl up, looking for a place to attach. Ticks usually go for the groin, armpits, and head (presumably in that order). Once attached, the tick can get to your blood stream in about 24 hours. The longer a tick is attached to the body, the more likely it will transmit disease.
The first line of defense against ticks is long pants and tall socks. Tucking the bottom of your pant legs into your socks will keep ticks from getting on your skin, just as sure as it will make you look like a nerd. But seriously, that is the most effective way of keeping ticks off your skin. Also, wearing lighter colored clothes makes ticks much easier to spot.
Insect repellents are the second line of defense. Common insect repellents that contain DEET are not sufficient to protect against tick bites. Repellents that contain Permethrin on the other hand, kill ticks on contact and are more likely to repel ticks. The best strategy, as far as repellents, is using a repellent that contains Permethrin on your clothes and one that contains DEET for your skin. You could also opt for an all-natural repellent, often consisting of essential oils.
An even better form of protection is Permethrin-treated clothing. The fabric is treated in a way that binds Permethrin to the fibers so that the clothing remains effective through over 50 washings. You could also buy an aerosol can of Permethrin from an outdoor store and treat the clothing yourself.
The last line of defense is to shower immediately after returning from outdoor activities in high-risk environments. Make sure to take your clothes off before you shower (obviously) then put them in the dryer. Ticks can survive the wash but not the dryer on high for 5 minutes.
Joke & Quote
Why did the farmer win an award?
He was out-standing in his field.
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” -Heraclitus
Ticks can survive without food for 200 days
Each year about 300,000 people in the U.S. contract Lyme disease
Ticks can detect hosts through body odor, temperature, moisture, and vibration
99% of the time ticks will attach from the bottom of your knee downward