Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ticks and the outdoor life

I've pulled over a half-dozen tiny deer ticks off of my dog in the last few days. Only one was bit in, the rest were just looking for a tasty spot. Damn, I hate the little bastards.

I really don't like this feeling of being scared of the outdoors. When I hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2005, I slept on the ground for over 120 days. Even before that, but especially since then, the mountains and forests are my second home. They've always been my place of retreat, of respite, and it feels like a major part of my life has been taken away.

Once I get better and can hike again, I can do a few things to be more careful:
  • I normally sleep under a tarp. I think a zipped tent with a floor will be much safer. I suspect that's how I got bit last year - the tick has all night to be attracted to my body heat lying on the ground. I'm sure it's no great feat to climb onto my groundsheet.
  • I can take a little mirror, and check my whole body each morning and evening.
  • I may consider DEET. I've never used any kind of bug dope, as I don't like the poisons. Even before the Lyme, and my ultra-sensitivity to all kinds of chemicals, bug spray has given me headaches. But I wonder if I can get by putting a little bit on key areas, like the tops of my socks... I'm not even sure how well it actually works against ticks...
Unfortunately, for now at least, I don't even feel comfortable sitting in the woods, or in a field, or walking under leaves. When I pause while walking my dog, I squat so as to offer only my shoes to climbing ticks. This kind of tick avoidance becomes very impractical on a long-distance hike. I'm hoping a bit of my fear is overreaction due to neurological symptoms, and will go away. But on the other hand, I just can't imagine how bad it would feel to find out that a couple of years after my recovery, I got reinfected. Plus, I suspect that since Lyme may never completely be eradicated in the body, perhaps one's reaction to another infection is more quick and severe. I just don't know.