Health and Safety
Though drastically reduced in New York City in recent years, crime continues to be an issue in the Big Apple and other New York cities. Wherever you go, stay alert and use common sense. Carry only small amounts of cash; ignore hustlers and con artists; keep a tight hold on your purse and camera; label and lock your luggage; lock your car; and avoid lonely and unlit stretches, especially after dark.
Before heading into the forests and semi-wilderness areas of New York State, be sure you know where you’re going and what you’re doing. Check with park officials and other knowledgeable outdoorspeople about trail conditions, weather, water sources, and fire danger. Be sure your equipment is functioning properly, and don’t head out alone. If you’re an outdoors novice, accompany someone with more experience.
Basic accoutrements for most day hikes include a small knapsack, hat, sunscreen, lip balm, compass, whistle, insect repellent, multipurpose knife, good hiking boots, layered clothing, food, and an ample water supply. For longer or more demanding hikes, bring a butane lighter or waterproof matches, nylon rope, first-aid kit, “space blanket,” extra socks and shoelaces, and a waterproof poncho or large plastic bag.
Anyone who spends much time outdoors in New York should be aware of the symptoms of Lyme disease. The bacterium that causes the disease is carried by the deer tick, which is found in brush, meadows, forests, and even lawns. In early stages, the disease is easily treatable with antibiotics, but if left unattended, it can lead to serious neurological, heart, and joint problems.
Many—but not all—of those infected develop a red circular rash around the bite location within three days to one month. The rash usually begins with a small red dot that expands to a diameter of one to five inches. The expanded rash may feature a bright red border and a hard, pale center.
The rash is usually accompanied by flu-like symptoms. These include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, pain in the muscles and joints, stiff neck, swollen lymph glands, headaches, fevers, chills, sore throat, dry cough, dizziness, sensitivity to the sun, and chest, ear, and/or back pain.
Lyme disease was first identified in Old Lyme, Connecticut, in 1975, and quickly spread throughout New England. It’s now one of the fastest growing communicable diseases in New York. If you suspect that you have Lyme disease, contact your doctor immediately.
Prevention: Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to spot ticks, and long pants and long-sleeved shirts to discourage them. Tuck pants cuffs into socks, and use an insect repellent with a 25–30 percent DEET content around clothing openings and on exposed skin.
Use gloves and tweezers to remove ticks; grasp the tick’s head parts as close to your skin as possible and apply slow steady traction. Wash both your hands and the bitten area afterward. Do not attempt to remove ticks by burning them or coating them with anything like nail polish remover or petroleum jelly. If you remove a tick before it has been attached for more than 24 hours, you greatly reduce your risk of infection.
Ticks do not jump, but usually crawl upward until they find exposed skin. Among their favorite dining spots are the back of the neck, the scalp, armpits, the groin area, and the backs of knees. Not all bites result in illness.
If you plan to spend much time outdoors in New York State, you may wish to ask your doctor about the newly developed inoculation for Lyme disease.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition