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Get Ticked Off!

Being prepared before you head outside can make all the difference when you visit a Virginia State Park.

A hiker visits Grayson Highlands State Park

Be prepared while in the great outdoors, bring plenty of water!

Bear Creek Lake State Park

Stay on the trails, steer clear of overgrown vegetation and grasses.

What things can we do in preparation of getting outside this Spring and Summer at our favorite Virginia State Parks? Let look at a few irritating factors and what we can do to prepare:

TICKS - I HATE THEM YOU HATE THEM WE ALL HATE THEM! Unfortunately they are a part of the great outdoors here in Virginia. Last June a health official shared: 

The tick population is increasing in Virginia, along with diseases borne by the insects.

Dr. Laura Gateley with the Virginia Department of Health tells the Danville Register & Bee that wet weather and a rise in the rodent population are factors in the tick population surge.

She says wet weather leads to more foliage and ticks like tall grass or tall weeds near forested areas. Woodpiles attract rodents that commonly host ticks.

Gateley says Virginia had 1,245 reported cases of tick-borne Lyme disease last year, up from 1,000 in 2008. In 2010, three deaths from other tick-borne illnesses were reported, two from Rocky Mountain spotted fever and one from ehrlichiosis. Learn more about Tick-borne diseases in Virginia here.

What can you do?

Ticks are extremely small insects classified as arachnids with spiders and mites. Ticks are found usually living in areas with overgrown grass and near water.

   1) Wearing protective clothing when hiking (tuck your pant legs into your socks), don't wear open toed shoes. 
   2) Spray bug repellent. 
   3) Don't let the kids run through the tall grass in the parks, stay on the trails.
   4) Protect your pet using Frontline Plus or another proven repellent for ticks.
   5) Do a daily tick inspection. Check yourself and your clothing for ticks! Prompt removal of attached ticks can prevent some infections.
Obnoxious Insects
Mosquitoes are pesky critters, some of us are targeted as blood donors for these nasty blood suckers. Protect yourself and your family using insect repellent and cover up when you can with long sleeves especially when hiking. Wear light colored, long and loose fitting clothing as far as possible. The color is important as mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors. Twilight is a particularly bad exposure time (sunrise and sunset) for mosquitoes, especially around water as mosquitoes really vamp up and feed. They may be out throughout the day, but these are the times they are most active.
First Aid Kits
Besides the cuts, scratches and bruises we tend to get while being so active in the warmer months, there are also other issues like poison ivy and mosquito bites that require our attention. Bring a basic first aid kit along whenever you go hiking or camping. Be prepared!
Sun Exposure
Nothing ruins a vacation faster than a terrible sun burn! You have heard all the warnings about skin cancer, it is just not worth it! Protect your family with the highest sunscreen available. Wear a hat. Remember to apply sunscreen 15 minutes before you reach the beach, and then reapply every few hours. Better yet, when you feel like you have had too much sun, get out of the sun! Find a place that is out of direct hot sunlight and relax for a few moments. Keep an eye on the kids, many times they don't know they have had too much sun.
Thirst signals that you are dehydrated, and even mild dehydration can sap your energy and turn a fun hike into an ordeal.  All the fun in the sun makes us thirsty, but who wants to leave the water to go get a drink? Refuel your family!  It is a lot easier to stay hydrated than to reverse dehydration, because if you are sweating heavily and become dehydrated, you may be losing water faster than your body can absorb the liquid you drink. In order to prevent dehydration, which can cause life-threatening shock in severe cases, it is vital to replenish both the water and the electrolytes (salts) that your body loses through sweat. Bring plenty of water and other electrolyte replacements such as Gatorade. You may think little Billy is just being cranky, but he might be getting dehydrated!
There are 35 Virginia State Parks to choose from, click here to learn more. We want you to enjoy your visit to your favorite Virginia State Park, be proactive and get ticked off before you face the elements!

Published: 04/09/2012

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