Fall is a time to think about cozy sweaters, jack o'lanterns, pumpkin spice everything, and ... ticks? While the tiny creatures probably aren't the bloodsuckers you're thinking about around this time of year, one mom warns that they should be.
Two years ago, Jennifer Velasquez also wasn't thinking about ticks when she took a trip to a pumpkin patch with her family and decided to wear flip flops instead of sneakers. She was bitten by a tick while at that pumpkin patch and contracted Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a bacterial disease spread through infected ticks.
After seeing photo after photo of cute families like hers visiting pumpkin patches this year, Velasquez posted a photo of what her legs looked like after that tick bite to Facebook to remind others to wear long pants, socks, and closed-toe shoes if they're planning a family outing — because ticks aren't just something to worry about in the summer.
"I couldn't walk, my whole body was in pain, my hair fell out, and I almost died," she wrote in the caption on her photo. "I'm still healing from all this. Don't be dumb and wear flip flops like me. CHECK FOR TICKS!"
This content is currently unavailable. Check it out from your desktop or on our web app!
Velasquez tells Refinery29 that she's doing much better in the years since she was bitten, but that "I'll never be the same healthy me I used to be." She has lasting autoimmune and gastrointestinal issues. She wanted to warn others in her area — she's from San Diego — that they should be doing their best to avoid ticks, especially with temperatures still in the 80s and 90s.
After getting some complaints from people who don't want to avoid their fall fun on the off chance that they'd be bitten by a tick, Velasquez update her post to say that she's not asking anyone to avoid pumpkin patches or other outdoor activities.
"Just be sure to cover up when you go, use repellent, and do a tick check when you get home," she wrote. "To my fellow southern Californians, I know it's in the 80s and 90s but better to be safe than sorry."
It's not just California. Even in New York, we've had an uncharacteristically warm fall so far, and that may make it tempting to wear shorts and flip flops to go pumpkin or apple picking. But, as Velasquez says, it's better to be safe and cover up, because you never know if there's a tick hiding among the vines.
Refinery29 has reached out to Velasquez and will update this story when we receive a response.
Read these stories next: