Q. It seems as if there are more ticks this year. Is this true? What can I do to protect my children and myself?
A. We have received reports of numerous tick encounters with folks who are spending time outdoors this spring.
Ticks wait for host animals from the tips of grasses and shrubs. When brushed by a moving animal or person, they quickly let go of the vegetation and climb onto the host.
One of the most frequently encountered ticks is the American dog or wood tick. Adults are most active in April, May and June. The American dog tick can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia and possibly ehrlichiosis to humans.
Deer ticks will feed on a variety of hosts including people. Adults are reddish-brown and about one-half the size of the more familiar female American dog tick. These ticks are found in wooded areas along trails. The deer tick can transmit Lyme disease, babesiosis and possibly ehrlichiosis to humans.
Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, long trousers, boots or sturdy shoes and a head covering. Tuck trouser cuffs in socks. Tape the area where pants and socks meet so ticks cannot crawl under clothing.
Apply insect repellent containing 10% to 30% DEET primarily to clothes. Apply sparingly to exposed skin. Always follow label directions. Some “natural” repellents for ticks are listed at http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/prev/natural-repellents.html
Walk in the center of trails so weeds do not brush against you. Check yourself, children and other family members every two to three hours for ticks.
If ticks are crawling on the outside of clothes, they can be removed with masking tape or cellophane tape.
The best way to remove a tick is to grasp it firmly with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and gently, but firmly, pull it straight out.
If tweezers are not available, grasp the tick with a piece of tissue or cloth. Don't burn the tick with a match or cover it with petroleum jelly or nail polish. Do not use bare hands to remove the tick because tick secretions may carry disease. Ticks can be safely disposed of by placing them in a container of soapy water or alcohol, sticking them to tape or flushing them down the toilet. Wash the bite area and your hands thoroughly with soap and water and apply an antiseptic to the bite site.
Make sure the property around your home is unattractive to ticks. Keep your grass mowed and keep weeds cut. Insecticides labeled for control of ticks can be applied to small areas of high weeds that cannot be mowed.
If you experience a rash that looks like a bull's-eye, or a rash anywhere on the body or an unexplained illness accompanied by fever following a tick bite, you should consult your physician and explain that you were bitten by a tick. Disease carried by ticks can be treated with antibiotics.
However, the type of antibiotic can vary and individuals should be treated early in the infection.
The Plant Medic, written by Ricky Kemery, appears every other Tuesday. Kemery retired as the extension educator for horticulture at the Allen County Purdue Extension Service. To send him a question, email firstname.lastname@example.org.