Tick, tick, it’s that time

Record warmth last week brought people outside en masse and with that came contact with ticks; here’s practical suggestions.

A tick crawling up the inside of a camo jacket Saturday, a sign of the times.

A tick crawling up the inside of a camo jacket Saturday, a sign of the times.

Dale Bowman

A tick crawling inside my camouflage jacket Saturday caught my eye while turkey hunting.

Sheez, they give me the heebie-jeebies, so I doused my boots, clothes, chair and blind with high-DEET insect repellent.

For weeks, readers have reported ticks. I lived free until Saturday, even though in the field or woods many times scouting turkeys and volunteering at a prairie.

I credit wearing high boots in high-tick areas. I started that after a personal-high of 28 ticks pulled off me after a May trip to Mazonia State Fish and Wildlife Area. It ticked me off enough to change my habits.

In 2016, when I walked the initial parcel of the Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area with Marianne Hahn, she had small vials with rubbing alcohol along in case any ticks bit her.

“The tick-borne diseases can be hard to diagnose and having the tick available, if properly identified, might help in the diagnosis,” she explained over the weekend.

The three common ticks in our area are associated with different illnesses.

Rocky Mounted Spotted Fever is transmitted by the American dog tick. RMSF “must be treated ASAP with doxycycline,” Hahn, a retired microbiologist, emailed.

The black-legged tick can transmit the organism which causes Lyme disease; it is treatable with antibiotics (earlier treatment is best). The lone star tick (a southern tick) becomes more common and can transmit ehrlichiosis, RMSF, or heartland virus disease (not treatable by antibiotics).

“Don’t panic if a tick has bitten you; a very small fraction of ticks carry disease-causing microorganisms,” Hahn emailed. “But do remove it PROPERLY as soon as possible. . . . Use fine forceps or a tick removing device, or long fingernails if you have them, to grasp the tick near the skin where it is attached and gently pull upward: this will remove the tick and the cement that ticks use to attach itself.”

Tick removing devices are inexpensive.

A tick-removing tool. Provided photo

A tick-removing tool.

Provided

I also reached Carly Mullady Cowan, who, after battling Lyme disease a long time, became involved in advocacy and information.

“Prevention is key,” she messaged. “We’ve all been cooped up for winter and are so excited to be outside again! That doesn’t need to stop just because of the hazards of ticks from another mild winter.”

Here’s some of her basic suggestions.

Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to see ticks. (Doesn’t help if wearing camo for hunting.) Some outdoors clothing can be treated with permethrin. Check for ticks periodically when out.

After being in an area known for ticks, throw clothes in the dryer on high heat for at least six minutes to kill ticks. That advice comes from studies by the National Institute of Health.

Then, “shower right away and check for any stragglers—behind the ears, the neck, elbows, knees, hairline, groin area, ankles, etc.,” Mullady Cowan emailed.

If any ticks are found, remove as advised above.

Lymedisease.org has great resources. The Illinois Department of Health has a very practical page on ticks of Illinois.

Stray cast

The White Sox should consider hobble-up dirges instead of walk-up songs, sort of like Illinois rebranding invasive carp as copi.

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