Tick season has arrived! Now that the weather is warming up, it is important to keep a watchful eye out for ticks. Ticks can be found lurking in hardwood forests as well as in tall grasses. 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). To reduce contact with ticks, it is important to keep grasses at bay, keeping them mowed short around the homes and in areas where people commonly walk. It is important to clear away brush and fallen leaves near homes along with keeping grasses short. Place lawn furniture and play structures in sunny areas of the yard. Bird feeders and wood piles attract tick-carrying mice so keep them far from the house.
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. When avoidance isn’t possible or desirable, insecticides and repellants can reduce the risk of a tick bite. Remember that insecticides kill ticks, while repellants encourage ticks to leave before a bite occurs. 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 their hair. Check with your veterinarian about prevention and treatment of ticks on pets.
Blacklegged ticks (deer 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. The risk of contracting Lyme disease from a specific bite is related to how long the tick was attached and how likely it is to be infected. With less than 24 hours of feeding, few infected ticks transmit Lyme. At 48 hours, it is closer to 20 percent; at 60 hours, 50 percent pass on the infection and when ticks feed until full, 94 percent will transmit Lyme. 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.
If you use insecticides and repellants, here is some of information you should know about these products. Permethrin is an insecticide that kills ticks as well as repels them, and should only be applied to clothing. It can be applied to fabrics and once dry, it won’t transfer to skin. There are also clothes available that are pre-treated with permethrin. Depending on the product, permethrin lasts for 2-6 weeks and withstands multiple washings. Picardin is a newer repellant as effective as DEET. Picardin is safe to apply to unbroken skin, fabrics, and materials and is non-toxic and the EPA states it is safe for children of all ages. DEET is an older repellant with multiple strengths available. DEET is safe to apply to unbroken skin, wool and cotton, but it can damage other fabrics and materials, such as leather and rubber. The EPA advises that DEET is safe for anyone over 2 months of age, but Canada’s health department recommends against using DEET on children. Finally, BioUD is a newer repellant. It contains the active ingredient, 2-undecanone, was originally derived from wild tomato plants. In laboratory testing, BioUD at a concentration of 7.75 percent is at least 2-4 times more active than 98-percent DEET against deer ticks. It can be used on clothing, but it is not nearly as long-lasting as permethrin.
If a tick is found attached to the skin, grasp the tick with tweezers, as close to the skin as possible, avoid squeezing its body and pull the tick straight out. Do not put anything on the tick such as a liquid soap or other irritants because they won’t cause the tick to release its bite and may make it harder for you to grasp the tick. Ticks have barb-like projections on their mouth parts and cement themselves to the skin, so it takes a little extra effort to remove them compared to other common ticks. Always treat the wound with a good germicidal agent such as iodine, or wash with soap and water. 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 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. It is also advisable to keep the specimen that is found for positive identification.
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 occur 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. The symptoms continue on to swelling joints, like knees, continued fatigue and nervous system problems.
Information included in this article was courtesy of the Partnership for Healing and Health. For additional information, as well as photos of ticks, please visit http://