Camping is a favorite activity for outdoor enthusiasts across the country. There are few better ways to take in the fresh air and relax than by spending some time out in the elements without all the distractions of everyday life. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the great outdoors is also home to some serious health threats — and you may be surprised at the “biggest” culprits!
While small in size, mosquitoes and ticks are out in abundance this time of year. Just one bite from an infected mosquito or tick can have chronic, and possibly fatal, consequences.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), late summer is peak time for West Nile virus infections (WNV), and transmission of the disease frequently continues into the fall as well. According to the National Pest Management Association’s medical advisor, Dr. Jorge Parada, the elderly, children and those with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable to West Nile virus infections, which can be fatal in severe cases.
Ticks are capable of transmitting a variety of illnesses to humans, the most common being Lyme disease. Spread by the blacklegged deer tick, Lyme disease has historically been a problem in the northeast U.S. However, an August 2015 report from the CDC found blacklegged deer ticks are expanding their territory farther in to the West and South, bringing the threat of Lyme disease with them.
The National Pest Management Association offers the following tips for campers to protect themselves from mosquito and tick bites:
* Always apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin or IR3535 when outdoors and use as directed on the product label.
* Reduce the amount of skin exposed during dusk and dawn, when certain types of mosquitoes are most active.
* Avoid areas where ticks are most abundant, including high grasses and low-growing vegetation along the edge of the woods or a trail.
* Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and closed-toe shoes when outdoors. While hiking, tuck long pants into your socks to keep ticks out.
* Consider investing in permethrin-treated clothing and gear for an extra level of protection and choose light-colored clothing that will make spotting ticks easier.
* Inspect yourself and your companions carefully for ticks after being outdoors; finding and removing ticks in a timely manner is critical to preventing disease.