Warning: Disease carrying ticks out in full force in local woods

by Chris Peterson
Editor | April 8, 2020 9:05 AM

A lot of folks are out recreating in the woods during the novel coronavirus outbreak — even with Glacier National Park closed, there are still millions of acres to hike, fish, float, hunt and recreate on while keeping a safe distance.

But as the temperatures warm up there’s another concern out there and it's far more dangerous than any bear encounter.

It’s wood ticks.

We went on a hike in the Whitefish Range last night and the ticks were out in full force. After the hike, my son and I had about a half-dozen ticks on our clothing and skin, and that was after just a short trip.

Ticks thrive this time of year in sunny south slopes. They especially like brushy areas that also have high deer and game populations.

Ticks also carry several diseases, including Colorado tick fever and Rocky Mountain Spotted fever. You do not want to get bit by a tick for any length of time. I have caught Colorado tick fever and it’s right up there with coronavirus, based on the accounts of that disease. Colorado tick fever comes with a very high fever, debilitating headache and joint pain.

Imagine an elephant standing on your head while you sit in an oven. It’s the one and only time I literally thought I was going to die — at least from disease, and I ended up seeking emergency medical care.

Fortunately, prevention is relatively easy. After a hike, check yourself and your pets for ticks and use insect repellent while hiking. The insect spray works, but only up to a point. Ticks love to crawl into the folds of skin, like your armpits, belly button and your ears, but I’ve even had them on the back of my legs, my shoulders and on my chest. In other words, check your entire body, and I mean all of it.

Take your clothes off outside and immediately wash them after a hike. Ticks will also hitch hike on your clothes, rub off on your car seat and then live in your car for days afterwards, so stay vigilant.

Check and double check the dog if you take it on a hike. Not only will ticks feed on any mammal, the dog will carry ticks into the house.

If you get a tick, the easiest way to get it off is to rub a little rubbing alcohol on it. The tick, which is sucking your blood, will release its bite. Then throw it in the toilet and flush it down.