An Ounce of Prevention

by Mark Stash

The Finger Lakes Trail Conference and the Finger Lakes Land Trust have teamed up over the years to preserve and enhance the sections of the trail that pass through the Finger Lakes Region. The entire trail system stretches from the Catskills in the east to Western New York, with a branch that also meanders to Niagara Falls.

Many people take advantage of the trail throughout the year, and the most foot traffic occurs during the warmer months of the year, from April to October. With the warm months not too far away, there are many outdoor activities that are fun and fulfilling. Swimming, bicycling, hiking, picnicking – the list is endless. And, when spending time in the outdoors among the fields and woods on the trail, being diligent about deer ticks and the Lyme disease that they carry is also becoming very important.

Growing up in Pennsylvania in the country, I spent a lot of time outdoors, running through fields and woodlands. The only inconvenience that I can remember was getting a cobweb across the face once in awhile. I never thought about wearing long pants and long sleeves. Now, that has all changed. Deer ticks have changed the way people interact with nature in Pennsylvania and other eastern states. In fact, deer ticks have an affect throughout the entire country. New York State is not immune to the deer tick explosion. I don’t believe it’s as prevalent as Pennsylvania, yet. But numbers indicate that tick populations are increasing.

So, what do we do? Stay indoors in fear, not go outside to enjoy the beautiful weather?

There are in fact many proactive things we can do to prevent ticks from ever biting us and possibly passing along Lyme disease.

According to, there are steps we can take to prevent medical problems that can occur from a tick bite.

• Determine risk. Spring and early summer are high-risk for ticks because ticks are in an earlier stage of their development, called “nymphs.” Nymphs often carry heavier loads of disease-causing pathogens, and are smaller and harder to spot. Tall grass and brush are higher-risk, too, because ticks can easily climb on to hikers.

• Wear long and wear light. Wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants of a light color. Lighter colors seem to attract fewer ticks and make the ones that do end up on you easier to spot.

• Seal the cracks. Tuck your shirt into your pants and tuck your pants into your socks.

• Repel invaders. Consider treating your clothing with a persistent repellent chemical call pyrethrum. This substance, applied to clothing, repels ticks and biting insects for up to 2 weeks. Apply a repellent containing at least 30 percent DEET to all exposed skin.

• Wash your hiking clothes as soon as you get off the trail. Dry them in a hot dryer for an hour. The heat will kill any ticks.

• Tick check. Showering within two hours of leaving the trail will help wash off any ticks which haven’t latched on. Using a hand-held or full length mirror, take this time to check yourself for ticks, especially checking armpits, hair, ears and behind the ears, belly button, behind the knees, and groin. Be sure to also thoroughly check your children and pets.

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