It almost never fails this time of year; I find a tick. Or rather, they find me. It usually happens after a spurt of warm weather when I unintentionally wander off the hiking trail to identify a wildflower and brush up against a bush or long grass.
That is when they hitch a ride, and so far I have been lucky. I have located the little buggers before they have a chance to sink in and start sucking my blood. Or worse, transfer a disease.
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services is warning people to be on the lookout for ticks right now.
From May through July, people get tick bites and tick borne diseases more often than any other time of year in the United States, but many may not know they are at risk. Ticks are small parasites that spread diseases when they bite people.
Left to Right Rocky Mountain wood tick: unengorged female, 1/4 engorged, 1/2 engorged and fully engorged.
Lyme disease is the most common tick illness. The most recent numbers show in 2012, there were 22,014 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the U.S. Six of those were in Montana.
Early symptoms include rash in a bull’s eye pattern, along with fever, chills, and body aches. If untreated it can lead to joint pain, and neurological problems.
Here are a few tips to protect yourself from ticks when you are enjoying the outdoors.
- Wear light-colored clothing, it makes ticks stand out.
- Check yourself and your children and your pets for ticks when you are done with the activity or during the day.
- Shower after you’re done with outdoor activities, this is the best opportunity to do a full body check.
- Tuck your pants legs into your socks so that ticks cannot crawl up the inside of your pants legs.
- Apply repellants to discourage tick attachment. Repellents containing permethrin can be sprayed on boots and clothing, and will last for several days. Repellents containing DEET can be applied to the skin, but will last only a few hours before reapplication is necessary. Use DEET with caution on children. Application of large amounts of DEET on children has been associated with adverse reactions.
- Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Walk in the center of trails.
- Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks. (Some research suggests that shorter drying times may also be effective, particularly if the clothing is not wet.)
For more information on ticks, symptoms of a tick bite, and identification tips from CDC click here.
Also, FWP has some excellent information on their website here.