I love where I live. Maine is called Vacationland for a reason, with many state and local parks and trails for a runner to explore.

Unfortunately, one of the dangerous parts of taking advantage of such a setting is that you have to check yourself over for ticks.

A few days after running a local trail race, I noticed that one of my bug bites near my hip looked a little scabbed over. Closer inspection revealed that it was actually a small tick!

TickLarge ticks I don’t worry about. They are easy to spot and don’t carry lyme disease. Deer ticks do carry lyme disease, though, and if they latch on to you for 24 or 36 hours then you have a chance of contracting it.

This feller was a little too small (especially after I tore him with the tweezers while removing him) to tell if he is a deer tick or not, so I had to make a visit the Doctor’s office.

If you ever find a tick dug into you and live in an area where lyme disease is rampant, then here are a few simple steps that you can take to protect yourself:

  1. Remove the tick with tweezers, and make sure that you get the head out of your body.
  2. Put the tick into a small tupperware container (if you have rubbing alcohol available, then put some in with it.)
  3. Clean the area you were bit with some rubbing alcohol or some other sterile liquid.
  4. Get into the doctor’s office right away with your tick, within 48 hours at the very latest but preferably within 24.

If the tick was on you for longer than 24-36 hours and you get to the doctor’s office within 48 hours of removing it, then they will probably give you a dose of antibiotics which will kill the lyme disease bacteria if it is present in your bloodstream. They will then send the tick off to be examined to determine first if it is a deer tick, and if so they will check to see if it is carrying lyme disease.

Depending upon what they find, you may need to get tested for lyme in 4 to 6 weeks. The tests are notoriously bad, and are very inaccurate earlier than that.

If you catch it quick enough, there isn’t much to worry about, but if you allow lyme disease to develop and progress through stage 2 or stage 3 then you may be subject to arthritis, partial paralysis, and other unpleaseantries.

How do you prevent it in the first place?

The easiest way is to just avoid getting bit by the ticks in the first place. Here are a few tips:

  • Wear long sleeves and pants, and tuck the pants into your socks when in areas that deer can be found such as meadows or trails.
  • Wear white clothing that the ticks will be visible against.
  • Check yourself and your friends for ticks after your run or hike and remove any ticks that you find.
  • If a tick does bite you, then get it out of your body as soon as possible, and if it’s likely that it’s been on you for longer than a day follow the steps I listed above.

Don’t let fear of lyme disease or ticks keep you from enjoying a good trail run; while it can be bad if you let it go untreated, a few simple precautions can keep you safe.

(Photo Credit: Jonas B)