Coping with an uptick in outdoor parasites
Health authorities are predicting a robust number of ticks and rising rates of tick-borne illnesses through September.
Scott Amos, a public land manager for Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism, encountered a lot of ticks last month.
“Early in April, when I was out scouting potential areas for prescribed burning, I was getting quite a few ticks on me,” Amos said. “I was finding 12 to 20 a day.”
Amos said he found them before they bit.
“Historically, I’ve always heard complaints from spring turkey hunters about ticks,” Amos said.
County health administrator Diedre Serene said ticks appear to be on the rise.
“Spring, summer, and early fall, they are the most active,” she said.
Avoiding grassy areas and using insect repellant with 20 percent or more DEET are the best precautions.
“If you are on a hiking path, stay in the middle,” Serene said.
Outdoor clothing and gear can be treated with repellants containing permethrin, Serene said.
She also recommends showering after spending time outdoors to wash off ticks before they bite.
“They do say that drying clothes in a dryer for at least 10 minutes will kill ticks,” Serene said. “If the clothes are damp, more time is needed.”
Four types of tick infest humans in Kansas: American dog ticks, black-legged ticks, brown dog ticks, and lone star ticks.
“Each tick has a potential of causing a different bacteria or virus,” Serene said. “I know in the years I’ve worked here, we’ve seen Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and Lyme disease.”
Powassan virus, carried by black-legged ticks, is new to the region, Serene said.
If someone is bitten, Serene recommends monitoring the bite.
“It may be red, but that redness should go away,” she said. “If that redness gets bigger, doesn’t go away, or has a red circle around it, you definitely need to talk to your physician.”
The most common symptoms of a tick-borne illness are fever, chills, aches and pains.
Often physicians treat tick-borne illness with antibiotic.
A tick can be removed with fine-tipped tweezers by grasping the tick as close to the skin as possible. After removing a tick, thoroughly wash the bite with soap and water, Serene said.
If the tick is still alive after removing it, it can be killed by submersing it in alcohol.
Officials recommend wearing light colored, long-sleeved clothing with shirts tucked into pants and pants tucked into high socks.
They also recommend checking for ticks every two hours when outside for an extended period.
Repellants are available locally, Marion pharmacist Traci Lanning said.
“We carry bug sprays that contain DEET and we also have a selection of essential oils that can be used as a repellant,” Lanning said.
Bites can be treated with other over-the-counter items.
“Some people are allergic to tick bites, and they will start to itch and may develop a small rash around the bite,” Lanning said. “We recommend using a topical Benadryl cream and calamine lotion. Oral Benadryl can also be used for the itching. It is also important to clean the bite daily, and an antibiotic ointment such as bacitracin can be used if necessary.”
If these measures aren’t sufficient, a physician should be consulted.
“We would tell a patient to go see a doctor if the rash would become larger or if it was the typical bulls-eye rash that is associated with Lyme’s Disease,” Lanning said. “If the bite becomes infected or if the patient experiences fever, aches or lethargy, we would recommend visiting the doctor.”
Last modified May 18, 2017