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11 Tips for a Safer Hike: What You Need to Know About Outdoor Critters

 tick-rocky-mountain-spotted-feverby Elizabeth A. Pector, M.D.

Getting back to nature is great, until nature gets back at you! Some critters are merely annoying, but the bites of others can be lethal. Here are 11 tips to help you stay safe during your next hike in the great outdoors.

Avoid the Critters

  • Avoid areas with outbreaks of diseases carried by ticks (lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever) or by mosquitoes (West Nile virus).
  • Avoid going out during dawn and dusk (peak mosquito time).
  • Leave snakes alone.

Dress for Success

  • Wear light-colored, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants with the legs tucked into your socks and boots.
  • Bathe daily. Sweat angers bees.
  • Avoid perfumes, soaps, shampoo, deodorants or flowers that attract bees or wasps.
  • Use an insect repellant on exposed skin and clothes, such as one with up to 50 percent DEET.
  • Consider applying permethrin-containing repellants to your clothes, though not your skin. (Permethrin kills many bugs, including ticks, mosquitoes, bees and spiders.)

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Get Rid of Hangers-On

  • In tick-infested areas, check your body every two to three hours for ticks—especially on your scalp, arms, underarms, groin, thighs and legs.
  • To remove a tick, grasp the tick's mouth parts close to your skin with fine tweezers or gloves, and gently pull upward. Thoroughly clean the bite.
  • Watch for scorpions and spiders under rocks and in sleeping areas. Shake out clothes and shoes before wearing.

is a family physician in Naperville, Ill., and owner of Spectrum Family Medicine.

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Last updated and/or approved: August 2011.
Original article appeared in summer 2004 former print magazine. Bio current as of that issue. This general health-care information is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.

Image courtesy CDC/Dr. Christopher Paddock.
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