What you need to know about ticks this season
RAPID CITY, S.D. — Summertime always has our tick radar on high alert, and this year may be worse than years past due to the high amount of rainfall.
Ticks love hiding out in tall grass – waiting for their next warm-blooded victim to cling on to. So protecting exposed skin is necessary while out and about this summer and even into the fall season. It’s important to perform a thorough tick check from head to toe after outdoor excursions.
According to Patrick Wagner, entomology field specialist with the SDSU Extension based in Rapid City, “If you’ve been to the lake or something or you go hiking in the Hills, it’s going to be definitely a time when you can get one of those hitchhikers that comes on to you, so just really make sure you check yourself if you’ve been spending an extended period of time out in those areas.”
Time is of the essence to remove them, as they may be carrying disease.
“Ticks can carry bacterial diseases and most of the time it takes them 24 hours before they can actually transmit any of those bacteria into your bloodstream or anything. So basically as long as you get those ticks off of you in a few hours after you’ve been out in those areas, then you should be safe.”
Wagner emphasizes that if you find a tick attached to your body, don’t squeeze it. Use tweezers to grasp the tick close to the skin without crushing or puncturing the body or getting any fluids from the tick on you.
After you’ve removed the tick, disinfect the bite area with alcohol or povidone iodine and wash hands with soap and water.
To dispose of a tick, you should put it in a plastic bag and throw it in the trash. Don’t flush it down the toilet, because that doesn’t always kill it.
If you have been bitten, keep an eye on your health. Tick-borne illness occur several weeks after the tick bite and might include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, joint pain, a rash on the arms or legs or around the site of the bite and swollen lymph nodes. Call your doctor if you develop a fever or rash. Be sure to tell your doctor about any recent tick bite or time spent in areas with ticks.
If you wish to keep the tick alive, place it in a sealed container, such as a bag or vial, with moist paper and store it in the refrigerator to give to a physician for examination if a tick-carried disease is suspected.
The most common tick found in South Dakota is the American dog tick, which is the chief carrier of tularemia and Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis in the state. Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis is a group of tickborne infections that includes Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Pacific Coast tick fever, rickettsialpox and Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis.
Lyme disease is carried by the deer tick, which has been found in some eastern counties, but most areas of the state are not suitable habitat. Cases of Lyme disease reported in South Dakota often are the result of out of state deer tick bites.
In 2017 the South Dakota Department of Health investigated 13 cases of tularemia, 11 cases of Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis and 11 of Lyme disease.
“We see cases of tick-borne illness every year in South Dakota,” said Dr. Joshua Clayton, state epidemiologist for the Department of Health. “You can protect yourself when you’re outside by checking yourself and young children often and removing any ticks you find right away. It also helps to tuck your pant legs into your socks and spray your clothes and any exposed skin with repellent.”
Other ways to ward off ticks and mosquitoes include wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants. You can also apply permethrin to your clothes, a contact insecticide that kills ticks and other insects upon contact.
Check your pets for ticks, as they can ride into your home on them. You can get them tick-repellent collars or oral preventatives.