The greatest risk to your health and safety while hiking the Appalachian Trail is contracting a tick-borne disease.
As of 2019, multiple species of ticks can be found in every one of the 14 states that the A.T. passes through.
Although Lyme disease, carried by the deer tick (also known as the black-legged tick) is the most common, there are several tick-borne illnesses present on the A.T. Combinations of diseases may occur from a single tick bite. Although tick-borne illnesses are usually quite treatable, symptoms can be severe and long-lasting, and a few of the less common ones can be life threatening, especially for those with compromised immune systems if not treated promptly. For comprehensive information about tick-borne illnesses and symptoms, click here.
The characteristic "bulls-eye" rash sometimes occurs with Lyme disease, but not always. Symptoms that may indicate tick-borne illnesses and a need for medical attention include flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, joint pain, muscle aches and fatigue. For many tick-borne illnesses, symptoms may continue for months or even years and treatment may be difficult. Treatment is most effective immediately after a tick bite.
Most humans are infected by nymphs, which are about the size of a poppy seed and difficult to see. The most common time of year to be bitten by a tick is from May through July, but you can potentially be bitten by a tick any time of year, even in cold temperatures.
Prevention is the best strategy! Your chances of being bitten by a tick can be greatly reduced by taking these precautions: