Watch out for ticks

Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
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By Janelle Kuechle,

U of M Extension

Tick season has arrived! Ticks can be found lurking in hardwood forests as well as in tall grasses. Now that the weather is warming up, it is important to keep a watchful eye out for ticks. The two most common ticks in central Minnesota are the Blacklegged tick (formerly known as the deer tick) and American Dog tick (also known as the wood tick). Because they are usually not found in short grasses, encountering them in the home lawn is unlikely. But, it is important to keep grasses at bay, keeping them mowed short around the homes and in areas where people commonly walk.

Prevention is the best method to avoid ticks. Take precautionary measures when you are in tick prone areas. Stay on trails and out of tall grasses. Wear protective clothing including long sleeve shirts and long pants, tucking pants in socks as an additional safeguard.

There are products available such as DEET that can be applied to clothes or skin, as well as permethrin that can be applied to clothes, that can help to safeguard against ticks. Peramone (Permethrin) kills ticks as well as repels them, but should only be applied to clothes. It is effective for several wearings and will be effective if clothing is washed.

When using these products, always read the directions and precautions carefully. Be especially cautious about the use of insect repellants on children. Be sure to use formulations designed for children and avoid applying these products to a child's hands or face. If you are in areas common to harboring ticks, be mindful to inspect yourself and children as well as any pets that are with you. Inspect all clothing, shoes and hair for ticks, particularly before entering the home. It is recommended to do a complete body check followed by a shower and vigorous towel dry. Make sure children are examined thoroughly, especially in their hair. Check with your veterinarian about prevention and treatment of ticks on pets.

Blacklegged ticks are pests to be on alert for because of their ability to vector diseases such as Lyme disease, Human anaplasmosis, formerly called granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE), babesiosis, and Powassan virus, the most common of these being Lyme disease. In order for a tick to pass Lyme's disease to you, it must first be a carrier of the disease, and the tick must be biting for at least 24-48 hours. Another disease to be watchful for is Human anaplasmosis. In order for a tick to transmit the disease, it must be biting for 12-24 hours.

Most people, up to three-quarters of those affected with Lyme disease, experience a circular red rash. This rash is a bright red circle with a clear center, which is often hot to the touch; this can be for up to 30 days after the tick encounter. Other symptoms include: fever, chills, headache, nausea, muscle and joint pain and fatigue. These symptoms can progress into additional rashes, fever, arthritis, muscle pains, stiff neck and persistent fatigue and continue on to swelling joints, like knees, continued fatigue and nervous system problems. See a doctor immediately if you believe you have been bitten by a tick carrying Lyme disease.

If a tick is found attached to the skin, carefully remove it with tweezers by grasping it around the head as close to the skin as possible and gently, but firmly, pulling it out. To avoid contact with bacteria, do not squeeze ticks. Other methods of removing ticks such as covering a tick with petroleum jelly or alcohol or burning a tick with a lighted match could induce a tick to voluntarily pull its mouthparts out of skin, and do more harm than good. Always treat the wound with a good germicidal agent such as iodine. It is important to remove an attached tick as soon as possible, because the longer it is attached, the better chance it has to transmit Lyme disease, if it is a carrier. Not all people bitten by a deer tick will get Lyme disease because not all deer ticks carry the bacteria and those that are infected must be attached for at least 24 hours before they can transmit the bacteria. Blacklegged ticks that are not attached cannot transmit Lyme disease.

It is important to be aware that June is the high-risk month for contacting Lyme's disease. Be cautious and aware of situations where ticks may be lurking. American dog ticks (wood ticks) and other ticks can be confused with blacklegged ticks. If you have any doubt about the identification of a tick that you find attached to your body, have it identified by an expert.

For additional information as well as photos, visit http://z.umn.edu/ticks.