Warmer weather means ticks are active and looking to suck your blood; they can make you sick; here’s how to deal with them

Published 3:21 pm Thursday, April 25, 2024

Kentucky Health News
State wildlife officials are reminding Kentuckians to take precautions against tick bites, which can transmit disease.

“Ticks are common across the state, and whether you’re hunting, hiking or spending time in your backyard, you’re probably going to encounter them,” said Dr. Christine Casey, wildlife veterinarian for the Deparment of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “The key to avoiding any health risk from a tick bite is by taking steps to protect yourself from being bitten in the first place.”

The most common tick species in Kentucky are the blacklegged tick or deer tick, the American dog tick and the lone star tick. The type of tick can determine whether you get sick from a single bite; other factos include where it was acquired and how long it was attached.

“While few ticks transmit disease, tick bites should always be taken seriously,” the department said in a news release. “Lyme disease, transmitted by infected blacklegged ticks and common in the northeast and north central U.S., is of growing concern to Kentucky.

“Ticks don’t have to ruin a day outdoors,” the department says, offering these precautions to avoid tick bites and deal with them if you are bitten:

Before going outdoors

• Use Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents containing DEET (the oldest, most common and most effective insect repellent), picaridin, or oil of citronella.

• Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin, which kills ticks on contact. Permethrin should not be applied directly to the skin.

• Take extra precaution if walking through wooded or brushy areas, tall grasses, woodpiles and leaf litter.

After spending time outdoors

• Perform tick checks. Ticks are known to be found under the arms, in and around the ears, the back of the knees, in and around hair, between the legs and around the groin and waist. Be sure to check gear and pets as well.

• Shower soon after coming indoors; this can remove any unattached ticks.

• Tumble-dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks attached to clothes.

If you are bitten by a tick

If a tick is found attached to the skin, remove it as soon as possible. Use tweezers to grab the tick close to the skin and gently pull on the tick with steady pressure. Do not jerk or twist the tick; this can cause mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin.
After removing the tick, clean the bite site and wash hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Dispose of a tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag or other container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Do not attempt to crush a tick between the fingers.

If symptoms of a fever, rash, muscle or joint aches, or other types of illness arise within several weeks of removing a tick, consult a health-care professional and tell them about the recent tick bite, when it occurred and where the tick was acquired.

Kentuckians who are interested in contributing to the study of tick-borne diseases and their distribution across the state are encouraged to submit samples of ticks to the Kentucky Tick Surveillance Project. This project, produced by the University of Kentucky Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, aims to improve knowledge about where ticks are found and the diseases they might carry.

For more information about ticks and tick prevention, visit www.cdc.gov.

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.