HealthSmart

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GoldCare hikers at Lake Guntersville State Park
GoldCare hikes follow moderate trails to explore and learn about the rich plant and wildlife environment we have in North Alabama.

Mon, Jun 24, 2019 at 10:45 AM

"Tick talk" gives hikers good advice for the trail - and elsewhere

GoldCare 55+ hiker got valuable pointers about ticks on their latest trip to the trails of Lake Guntersville State Park.

Before GoldCare members hit the trail for a May hike, they first learned a lesson about ticks. Guntersville State Park Naturalist Mike Ezell provided a ‘tick talk’ to help hikers avoid the parasite as they walked in the woods. The prevalence of disease-carrying ticks is on the rise, and thanks to North Alabama's rich natural environment the advice given to the hikers is valuable for anyone in our area.

According to Ezell, Alabama has three types of ticks: 
• Common dog tick 
• Small deer tick – typically found on whitetail deer and has exploded along with the increase of its host population
• Lone Star tick – has a white dot on its back

Ezell explained that ticks hide in tall grass and hop on people or animals as they brush against it. As they attach themselves to people’s skin, they can transmit disease, such as Lyme disease. Most people who get tick bites do not get Lyme disease. The risk for contracting the disease increases the longer the tick is attached to the body. A bite from the Lone Star tick can cause people to develop an allergy to red meat, including beef and pork.

The best way to prevent tick bites, Ezell said, is to use an insect repellent containing at least 25 percent DEET on feet and legs. Also, hikers should shower within two hours of leaving the woods to rinse off ticks before they have time to attach. 

“Get them off as soon as possible to lessen the chance of transmitting bacteria to the bloodstream,” he advised. 

If a tick is found on the skin, remove it by sticking a strip of tape to it and pulling it off. If it is attached, use tweezers and get right down on the skin to grab as close as possible to the tick's head. Pull up slowly and firmly, being sure to remove the entire tick. Clean the bite area and hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

Once the hikers hit the trail, Ezell pointed out wildflowers such as coreopsis, goldenrod, starflower and Oakleaf hydrangea. He identified trees like Carolina buckthorn, Sassafras trees and Blackjack oak, recognizable by its large, shiny leaves. Hikers saw blackberry bushes loaded with their soon-to-ripen fruit.  

Ezell is planning a birding event for GoldCare 55+ members on June 28 at 7 am at the State Park. To sign up for this free event, call (256) 571-8018. Anyone interested in participating should bring a folding chair, binoculars and a sack lunch. Water will be provided. 

If you are 55 or older and would like to take advantage of all the benefits Marshall Medical Centers’ GoldCare 55+ program has to offer, visit our web page here where you can download a membership application - or pick one up in the lobby of Marshall North or South, or email peggy.hudson@mmcenters.com.

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