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Hazards of the Meadow and Forest

Most of us on The Sea Ranch came here to enjoy the outdoors, especially hiking. We want everyone to enjoy our beautiful surroundings, but hikers should be aware that there are hazards.

Poison Oak

Poison OakOne hazard that can be either in the meadow or the forest is Poison Oak. Be careful not to touch it if you walk by a bush, and be aware that before it leafs out it can look like dead wood but is still dangerous. Poison Oak is identified by its shiny oak-like green or red leaf. It is a climber and often found wound up a tree or in another bush. If you're unfamiliar with what it looks like, one place to see it is at marker #28 on the Monarch Glen Interpretive Trail located down the trail opposite the One-Eyed Jack's parking lot. People vary in their sensitivity to Poison Oak. If you think you have been in contact with it, wash as soon as you get home with a heavy soap. Be careful how you or others handle your clothes and shoes. You can get poison oak from the oils it leaves behind, as in the laundry. Your pets can also bring it to you, especially off leash dogs. There are special soaps for people who have to be around Poison Oak. One brand is called Tecnu and is available at both grocery stores and pharmacies. It will remove the oils from your skin and can be used on laundry and tools. Once you get an itchy rash, usually within 24 hours, the pharmacist can recommend a cream such as calamine to ease the itching. If you get a bad case, a visit to your doctor is a good idea. With extreme exposure, people can be hospitalized for poison oak.

Deer TicksThe other more serious danger is from a tick bite. Ticks can be found in the grass or on brush and can cling to your clothing as you walk by. Once they get on you, they will climb up until they find a tasty place to attach. Hopefully, you will feel them and remove them before this happens. I brush off the bottom of my pant legs whenever I have to walk in grass. If you are wearing light colored clothes, you are more apt to see them. Pets can get them and then the tick transfers to you, your car, or into your house. Be sure to treat your dog or cat with a tick repellant. If you get a tick bite, remove the tick with blunt nosed tweezers at the point of attachment. Don't grab the tick and pull, because when you squeeze the body you inject fluid into yourself. Save the tick and send it to the county health department for analysis. If you can not easily remove the tick, go to your doctor and ask him or her to remove it.

Should you be tested for Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a serious illness caused by the bite of an infected tick and can become chronic. Ticks carry several infectious agents, not just the Lyme Borrelia. This can complicate treatment. The symptoms of Lyme disease and its other co-infections are varied and difficult to isolate from other conditions or signs of aging. Lyme is often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed. If you have any undiagnosed chronic condition, get a Lyme test or see a specialist in Lyme disease. However, be aware that 50 percent of the time, a victim of Lyme disease will test negative for Lyme. Lyme requires a "clinical" diagnosis from your group of symptoms by a medical professional who has handled many Lyme cases. For more information, contact the California Lyme Disease Association at www.lymedisease.org.

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