This spring marked a turning point in the global coronavirus pandemic, as vaccinations against Covid-19 continue to roll out around the world. But sadly, there are plenty of other infections and health issues to worry about as the hot weather approaches.
For much of the American population – and increasingly geographically each year – this spring marks the return of tick-borne disease season. The best known is Lyme disease, which can be debilitating and permanent, and is notoriously difficult to diagnose. But there are many more, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever and the growing scourge of anaplasmosis. Fortunately, we don’t suffer from as many mosquito issues here – the tiny bugs have killed more people than anything else in history – but as the vaccinations progress and the urge to travel returns. with a vengeance, Bucket List travels like safaris in Africa, the South The American Amazon and other tropical climates pose risks of everything from Zika to malaria. Whether you’re staying at home or taking a trip, there are bug issues all over the place outside of the concrete urban jungle.
And they often get worse. The CDC reported that cases of insect-borne illnesses tripled in the United States alone from 2004 to 2012. Almost half a million people are treated for Lyme disease alone each year, and that’s just those that are correctly diagnosed. Two days ago the Washington post reported that surprised researchers at Colorado State University found that “disease-carrying ticks, commonly associated with wooded areas, are also abundant near beaches in northern California,” and beaches have always been places where most people felt safe from these risks. In fact, the researchers said they “found ticks pretty much everywhere we looked at them.” Experts came to the conclusion that the habitat of Lyme carrying ticks was “much more widespread than previously thought.”
Unlike Covid, there is no vaccination or tick prevention (unless you are a dog), but just as we have learned that the correct use of masks, hand washing, social distancing and careful behavior can protect us very well against coronaviruses, there are effective countermeasures. against ticks (and other biting insects) which can greatly improve our chances of enjoying a safe and healthy spring, summer and fall, especially in a year when we no longer need medical emergencies .
There are four main strategies to protect yourself against ticks and other bugs:
The first is simply to be aware of your surroundings, such as choosing to walk on a gravel, dirt, or cobblestone path rather than grass or brush when possible, specifically to avoid ticks. But that doesn’t work for hiking, fishing, mountain biking, or a lot of recreation that takes place in natural settings.
Second, travelers to international destinations should consult with a medical provider specializing in travel to understand localized threats, especially since some dangerous insect-borne diseases, like malaria and yellow fever, have preventative medications that you can take. can take.
Third, after any trip to the woods or even the meadows, you should check yourself carefully for ticks after you get home. It is important to remove them as quickly as possible, because even if they have bitten you and are tied up, if you take them off the same day, they will not have had time to transmit Lyme disease.
Finally, you need to protect yourself physically. One way is to apply a topical insect repellant, the most (and arguably the only) effective of which contains DEET. Like sunscreen, this should be applied before going into the woods and reapplied periodically on long getaways. However, many people use insect repellants incorrectly, trying to avoid skin contact by spraying their cuffs, socks, and pant collars, except DEET is ineffective on clothing and works primarily on your skin. .
The opposite is true for permethrin, the most effective treatment for clothing. It is not for your skin, only works on clothes and works great. Permethrin repels ticks, mosquitoes, ants, fleas, flies, midges and chiggers. A study from the Department of Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina assessed the effectiveness of permethrin-impregnated clothing for the prevention of tick bites, following field workers from the Wetlands Unit and state permit and saw 99% less tick attachments than the control group which used a normal insect. control methods and untreated clothing. A study by CDC researchers found that just a minute or two of contact with permethrin-treated clothing caused tick disability or tissue shedding, and a military field study found a reduction of 97 % of insect bites, which led the US Army and Navy Crops to treat combat uniforms with permethrin.
I often use permethrin-treated clothing when walking my dogs during peak tick season, spring and fall where I live, but for long hikes in the woods I use both the spray DEET and clothing.
However, treating your own clothes with permethrin is time consuming and inefficient, as spraying or washing in home applications only last three to five wash cycles, whereas commercially impregnated clothes can last much longer. , binding the chemical to the fabric. , and staying effective with at least 70 shutouts. The self-applied method works best when you live in a risk-free location and take a one-time trip to a hot area and need clothes just for those vacations.
The first insect repellent garment registered by the EPA was Insect Shield in 2003, and today the brand dominates the industry and remains the gold standard. This is Category IV, the safest rating from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), requiring no safety warnings of any kind, and the fabrics can be used by anyone. which, including pregnant women and infants, do not bother the eyes and can be easily washed at home.
Much like Gore and its Gore-Tex, the world leader in waterproof and breathable fabrics, Insect Shield both manufactures its own line of products and licenses its fabrics to major outdoor brands for use in their designs. I have a lot of this material, from many different suppliers. While Insect Shield itself has a wide selection, their line of socks is particularly noteworthy, the most basic of the first stage of defense and one of the cheapest ways to start protecting yourself. Many accessories are available, from bandanas to travel throws, scarves and blankets. The latter is perfect for sitting on the floor, for picnics, dog beds, children, etc. They also make permethrin treated material for dogs, and I use it on both of mine, including neck guards and lightweight vests.
More recently, for 2021, Insect Shield has rolled out a range of treated dome camping tents, which is great because just about anyone camping faces bug issues. The timing is also perfect, as road trips, camping, and visiting national parks, campgrounds and other wilderness areas have exploded in popularity during the pandemic.
Insect Shield also offers a mail-in option where you can have your own existing favorite outerwear treated with bound permethrin for the same shelf life of 70 washes. It starts at $ 8.50 for one-off items and there is also a better bulk option for smaller items like lots of socks.
Craghoppers are a leading manufacturer of high quality technical hiking and adventure clothing that have really embraced the use of Insect Shield and I really like their gear especially in hot weather as they have a variety of gear. lightweight which are also SPF treated. for sun protection, with travel-oriented features like secure zip pockets, key hooks and even RFID protection. I have the Pro Adventure pants, ideal for serious hikers, with a full line of sun and insect protection, safety and stretch panels on the knees and seat for complete athletic freedom of movement. Craghoppers also make many long sleeve shirts that are perfect for fishing and trips like African safaris where you need to cover up but still want to stay cool.
Orvis, who specializes in fishing, is another outdoor specialist who uses Insect Shield in a variety of clothing for men and women, many of which are under his OutSmart brand. Buff, the beloved outdoor company that popularized the now widely copied versatile tubular neck warmers that morph into hats and more, is making an Insect Shield line. Other reputable companies selling clothing made with Insect Shield fabric include LL Bean, Ex Officio, Royal Robbins, Outdoor Research (OR), Kathmandu and others.
From hiking close to home to gardening, walking your dog to hiking in South East Asia, there is high-quality gear available from top outdoor brands to suit just about any taste, every. needs and all budgets.