While the weather has been a bit chilly outside, it’s not too early to start thinking about ticks. Ticks have been outdoors all winter and maybe you or your pets have encountered a few. With the weather warming, people will be spending even more time outside so before you head out, there are a few things to think about.

Ticks love wooded areas, brush, and tall grass. Before heading into these areas protect yourself by using an insect repellant or treat clothing and footwear with a product containing 0.5 percent permethrin. According to the National Pesticide Information Center, permethrin affects the nervous system in insects causing death.

It was first registered by the EPA in 1990 for use as an insect repellent on clothing by the military and is more toxic to insects than to people and dogs. Cats are more sensitive so don’t let them come in contact with it until it is thoroughly dry. You can also buy clothing already treated with permethrin.

Permethrin is only to be used on clothing and gear and should never be applied directly to skin. When applied properly, it will last up to six weeks or six washings. To apply, spray permethrin directly onto clothing, shoes, or gear with a slow sweeping motion, keeping the bottle about six to eight inches away for about 30 seconds.

Another option to protect yourself from ticks is to use an EPA registered repellant which contains at least 20 percent DEET. You should ALWAYS follow the product instructions for use. If you can, avoid wooded areas that are brushy and have high grass. If you are hiking trails, try to stay in the middle.

Once you come indoors, you should check yourself, your pets, your kids, and your clothing for ticks. Ticks should promptly be removed if they are discovered. Shower soon after coming indoors as it will help remove any unattached ticks. It also presents another opportunity to check your body for ticks, including under arms, in and around ears, back of knees, groin, around the hair line, and around your waist.

It is important to keep your surroundings free from becoming a tick habitat. Remove leaf litter; keep tall grasses and brush cleared; mow your lawn frequently; stack wood neatly in a dry area; keep the playground area away from edge of yards or near trees; remove old furniture, mattresses or trash from yards that give ticks a place to hide; discourage deer, raccoons, and stray animals from entering your yards; and place a three foot wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration. Through awareness of what ticks seek for habitat will help you consider ways to keep ticks from living near your home and becoming a regular visitor.

Should you develop a fever within a few weeks of removing a tick, contact your doctor. Be sure to provide details to your health care provider such as when the tick bite happened and where you acquired the ticks. The common symptoms of tick-borne illnesses include fever/chills, aches and pains and rash. Rashes vary, depending on the tick that bit you.

Symptoms can be mild (and flu-like) to severe. They can be easily treated with antibiotics, but can be difficult to diagnose. Ticks transmit pathogens that cause disease as they feed on people. They secrete saliva which often has a numbing effect so you can’t feel the tick. If the tick goes unnoticed, it can feed on its host for several days before it drops off and prepares for its next stage of life.

Did you know that opossums are champion tick killers? A scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies found that opossums kill a vast majority of the ticks that try to feed on them. Not all animals are as effective at getting rid of ticks. Of six species exposed to ticks for a study, opossums were much better than all the others at grooming and eating ticks. The study concluded that an opossum could kill about 5,000 ticks in one season.

So next time you see an opossum by the road, slow down to avoid hitting it so it can keep on eating those ticks! If you have any questions or would like more information check our website or call us at 740-385-3030, extension 2.

Written and submitted by the Hocking County Health Department.

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