Lyme disease is a common trail disease transmitted by the bite of a deer tick. It is more common (95% of all cases) in eastern states such as Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. It is the 7th most common disease in the U.S. In 2012 there were 22,014 confirmed cases and 8,817 probable cases. Regular tick check is very important, and checking on your clothing is just as productive. The early stages of the disease, include an erythema migrans (EM) otherwise known as a “bull’s-eye” rash. If this rash occurs you should seek medical attention immediately.
Ehrlichiosis is a tickborne bacterial infection transmitted dominantly by the lone star tick. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and muscle aches. The highest incidence rates for the infection were found in Arkansas, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin and 25% of all cases are reported in the month of June. It had a 1.1% fatality rate in 2010 with 2.5 cases per million people.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is another tickborne disease caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii. In the U.S. the potentially fatal illness is transmitted by the American dog tick, brown dog tick, and Rocky Mountain wood tick. Symptoms include headache, fever, abdominal pain, muscle pain and vomiting and can become quite severe or even fatal if not treated in the first few days of symptoms. It can be found in many areas of the states, but most densely in Arkansas, Delaware, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
Cryptosporidium (Crypto) is a microscopic parasite that causes this diarrheal disease. Because there are many species of Crypto, it is very common among hikers or those who spend an extended time outside in the woods. It can be spread in many ways but the most common is through drinking and recreational water. In 2010 there were about 8,951 confirmed and probable cases reported. The best way to prevent crypto is practice good hygiene, keep hands clean, avoid water that may be contaminated, drink bottled water, or disinfect water by boiling for 1 minute. Avoid eating uncooked foods with poor water conditions, and use safe water to clean other foods.
We’ve previously discussed the dangers of summer hypothermia, but this life-threatening danger is due to the body’s inability to keep itself warm after exhaustion and exposure to cold, wet, or windy weather. Symptoms include shivering, poor muscle control, stumbling, and mumbling. Keeping extra dry clothing on you is needed for instances like this. Also, drink warm sugary liquids, or warm your body with contact with another warm body. Avoid hypothermia all together by checking the weather conditions before your hike, and knowing what you will need, or if it is too cold to go on.
You may have never thought you could drink too much water, but in fact, this illness is caused by losing too much sodium in the blood. Drinking too much water and losing salt through sweating will initiate nausea, vomiting, confusion, frequent urination, or even seizures. If hyponatremia starts, eat salty foods, slowly drink electrolytes, and rest away from the sun.
The National Park Service defines heat exhaustion as “the result of dehydration due to intense sweating.” Hiking is hard work, and hikers can lose one or two quarts of water per hour. Everyday heat exhaustion is treated on trails. Symptoms include pale face, nausea, cool, wet skin, headache, vomiting and cramps. If this starts to occur you should drink water with electrolytes, rest away from the sun, eat high-energy foods, and apply cold water to the body.
Heat stroke occurs as a result of untreated heat exhaustion. The body becomes overwhelmed by the combination of internal heat production and environmental demands that it loses the ability to cool itself. The NPS reports that the Grand Canyon has two to three cases of heatstroke a year. Symptoms include flushed face, dry skin, confusion, poor judgment, or even seizures. Continuously pouring water over the body can help, removing excess clothing, and moving to the shade, but evacuation to a hospital is often necessary.