Column: Springtime is tick season in northern MinnesotaIf you want to make your skin crawl and your scalp itch, just do a little reading about wood ticks.
By: Ann Busche, For the Budgeteer News
If you want to make your skin crawl and your scalp itch, just do a little reading about wood ticks.
Our warmer-than-normal weather has brought out the ticks early this year. It was sometime in March that I pulled the first tick of the year off my dog; I’ve since applied a topical repellent and had her vaccinated for Lyme disease.*
It’s important to pay attention to ticks because they are a potential carrier of disease. You and I are most likely to come into contact (and by “contact” I mean that distinctive feeling of a tick crawling up the back of your neck) with two: the American Dog tick, commonly known as a wood tick, and the Blacklegged tick, known as a deer tick.
There are many great resources on ticks on the Internet; I’ve noted a few below. They all agree on steps to take to minimize your risk of tick-borne diseases:
Avoid going in places were ticks are likely to be found: woody and brushy areas, particularly in the peak of tick season, normally mid-May thru mid-July.
If you do venture into tick habitat, walk in the center of any trail. Ticks will hang onto long grasses and vegetation and let loose to adhere onto the body moving past them, whether that be a deer, a dog, or a person.
Wear clothes that protect you from ticks, such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and make them light-colored so ticks are easier to see. Tuck your pants into the top of your socks or boots.
Use a good tick repellent and follow the manufacturer’s directions.
When you return home, make it standard practice to do a “tick check” for all, checking the hairline, behind the ears and knees, in armpits, and waistlines.
If you find a tick, remove it right away. Use a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick close to the skin, pull the tick out slowly, gently and steadily, do not squeeze the tick, and use an antiseptic on the bite. I remember my dad lighting a match, blowing it out, and putting it on the tick, with the theory the tick would “let go.” Please do not use this method or any of the other folk remedies you may have heard of — such as liquid soap, nail polish remover, or Vaseline — they are neither safe nor effective.
The forested areas in the very southern tip of St. Louis County (Duluth and surrounding areas) is considered one of several high-risk areas for Lyme disease in Minnesota. Lyme disease is a potentially serious bacterial infection caused by the bite of an infected deer tick. While signs and symptoms vary (some people just feel like they have the flu), symptoms to watch for in the 3 to 30 days after a deer tick bite are distinctive rash, fever, chills, headache, muscle and joint pain, and fatigue. Contact your physician if you have these symptoms and suspect Lyme disease.
There’s great information about ticks, their habitat, life cycle, tick-borne diseases, and ways to make your home and lawn less tick-friendly on the following websites:
Once you get to these sites, use their search tool for “ticks.”
Have a happy and safe tick season — also known as spring time in northern Minnesota.
Ann Busche is the director of the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services department. Contact her at 726-2096 or email her. Please note that her email address has changed and is now: firstname.lastname@example.org.