For Release May 21, 2002

In the Thick of Tick Season

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

Well, we are once again back in the thick of tick season! We are abundantly blessed, in this state, with insects that are notorious for feeding on us. This week weíll talk about ticks, next week weíll deal with mosquitoes, and after that we tackle chiggers.

There are a lot of myths about ticks, and a lot of misplaced fear. Ticks are not to be taken lightly, but panic is not called for either. We mainly deal with two species of ticks this time of year. The American Dog Tick and the Lone Star Tick are both common throughout Geary and surrounding counties. Both feed on humans as well as almost any warm blooded host. The adult Lone Star Tick is characterized by a bright white dot on itís back. The nymph and juvenile forms of this tick are often the seed ticks that people may encounter by the hundreds.

Both ticks can carry numerous diseases. While Lyme disease can be carried by the Lone Star Tick, there are several other diseases that both ticks can carry that should be of greater concern. Even if you had the Lyme disease vaccines, it will not protect you from the various other tick-borne illnesses that are found in Kansas.

The best way to deal with ticks is to avoid being bitten. Ticks rest on vegetation, usually grass and low shrubs, and wait for a potential host to walk by. They grab on to whatever does walk by and immediately start climbing up to find a place where they can attach and feed. It takes a few hours before a tick usually settles in and starts feeding. The sooner that a tick can be found, the easier it is to remove it.

To remove an embedded tick, place fine tipped tweezers close to the skin, grasp its head and pull, gently and patiently, directly away from the skin surface. Do not twist or pull sideways. Be patient as it may take several minutes for the tick to detach. Do not try to make the tick back out with heat, petroleum jelly or irritants. Squeezing the body of the tick forces fluids into the skin causing a greater chance of infection. A head that stays embedded in the skin, after the body is ripped off, will likely become infected and eventually sloughed off with dead skin. A Lone Star Tick has much longer mouthparts than the American Dog Tick and may take upwards of ten minutes to remove, if it is well embedded.

The first line of defense is to use clothing as a barrier. Long sleeved shirts, close fitting cuffs, high necklines and long trousers make it more difficult for the tick to get to your skin. Tucking pant legs inside of socks may make you look like a geek, but it will also keep the ticks from getting inside your clothing.

There are several excellent tick repellents made for clothing treatment. These contain a 0.5% permethrin solution and are often sold as tick repellent, i.e., Permanone Tick Repellent. While excellent on clothing, skin oils will deactivate these products if applied to skin. For skin, use one of the DEET based products applied as directed. Many people also report good success applying dusting sulfur to shoes, socks, and trouser cuffs,

Upon returning from the outdoors, always do a personal inspection for ticks hiding in clothing and on your body. Check children over carefully. Since ticks often move around for several hours, early detection allows for easier removal.

Ticks are plentiful again this year. Donít let their presence force you indoors and donít panic at the thought of ticks. Use common sense and personal precautions to enjoy the great Kansas outdoors.


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