How to ward off bug bites on your hike
Fall is almost perfect for a walk, run, hike, skate -- just keep moving -- on a trail, where you can see the foliage change color and the temperatures are moderate. I say "almost" because biting and stinging insects still want a piece of you. Some advice:
Wear light-colored clothing. It's easier to see insects that land on your clothes. Cover as much skin as you comfortably can, tucking in pant-leg bottoms, having sleeves fit snugly at the wrist, etc. Obviously, if you're running, you'll probably want to be less covered, but we're beginners here, so we'll move more slowly and be more covered.
Some tips from Dr. Mark Landrum, chief of infectious diseases at Howard County General Hospital:
Watch out for ticks. Lyme disease gets publicity, but the tick has to be attached for at least a day to get you sick. "If it's less than 24 hours, there's no real risk," he says. Far less common, but potentially very serious, are tick-borne bacterial diseases are in the ehrlichia family. Sometimes a black dot appears at the bite site a week or so after the bite, and often there are flu-like symptoms to go along with what's called "Spotless Rocky Mountain
Spotted Fever." Ehrlichiosis is detectable through a blood test and responds to antiobiotics, he says. Online reports say ehrlichiosis can be, but is not usually, life-threatening.
Most important: Check your clothing, your body and your fitness companion for insects. "If you find attached tick, the most important thing to do is give a call to your physician," Dr. Landrum says. Some may suggest a preventive dose of antibiotics.
Watch out for mosquitoes. The good news is that doctors don't see as much West Nile virus as they did a few years ago, he says. But it's better not to get bitten and scratch.
Stay out of tall grasses, brush and overhanging branches, he says. Stick to the trails. If you're on a broad, paved trail, like the B&A Trail Park, there's less in the insect department to worry about than at woodsy Patapsco Park. Know your trail and insect repellents. You may need none or hardly any in a wide-open, fairly dry area.
Apply repellent before you go and keep it with you. He recommends a product with a low concentration of DEET to last a few hours. I tried a high concentration in a towelette and it took my nail polish right off, and yes, I know there have been some health concerns about pouring on DEET. You also can use a permethrin-based repellent on clothes, and you can buy permethrin-treated clothing, Dr. Landrum says. I've gone with the "natural" and permethrin repellents. The bottom line for me: They all stink, and they all sort-of work, and you have to know if and when to reapply. I usually put more on the sides of my shoes -- the non-canvas part. Other suggestions?
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