Icky, icky ticky ticky!

I don’t know about you, but it seems like every time I turn around, someone is talking about how bad the ticks are this year, and with summer here we’re all outdoors more: booking campsites, dusting off your hiking boots and planting the vegetable garden. Ticks are the last thing we want to worry about while enjoying our favorite summer activities, but understanding ticks and taking preventative measures can help reduce anxiety and risk.

There are at least 16 reported types of ticks in Wisconsin, only a few of which feed on humans.  The American dog tick—commonly called the wood tick in Wisconsin—is one of the most common.

Where are the ticks present?
The American dog tick is present in many areas east of the Rocky Mountains.  Specifically, this particular tick can be found throughout the entire state of Wisconsin, particularly in wooded, shrubby or tall-grass habitats.

When should I take extra precaution?
In Wisconsin, the American dog tick is most active during the warmer months (May-August), and adult ticks are most active and abundant in June and July in temperate zones like Wisconsin. The time for ticks is NOW!

Should I be worried?
Although tick-related diseases are rarely reported in Wisconsin, the wood tick is capable of transmitting bacteria that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia (Lyme Disease).  Most reported cases are associated with Wisconsin residents who have travelled to other states where the diseases more commonly occur.  In fact, only a few human cases of Lyme Disease were reported in Wisconsin from 2001-2010.

However, the wood tick is known to cause tick paralysis, caused by a toxin in the tick’s saliva.  Symptoms begin to emerge after a female tick has attached and begun feeding for at least four to seven days.  Symptoms include acute, progressive flaccid paralysis which usually begins the arms or legs.  Respiratory failure may occur if the tick is not removed; however, paralysis usually subsides within 24 hours of removing the tick.  Although this is also rare, paralysis can occur in humans and is more common in children.

What can I do to minimize risk?
Use the following tips to make sure your family has a tick-free summer!

  1. Avoid direct contact with ticks and tick habitat. Walk in the center of mowed or cleared trails. Avoid known or suspect tick-infested areas, and take extra precaution during warmer months. Steer clear of wooded or brushy areas, and avoid brushing up against trees, vegetation and tall grass
  2. Use tick repellent. Several repellents are available for use, including DEET and permethrin. Use insect repellents that contain at least 20-50% DEET on exposed skin or 0.5% permethrin on clothing.
  3. Wear clothes that can help protect your skin. Long-sleeved pants and shirts are best.  To create an extra barrier, tuck your pants into the top of your socks or boots. Light-colored clothing makes it easier to spot ticks.
  4. Check for ticks immediately. Conduct a thorough full-body check using a mirror to view all parts of the body. Have another person check your scalp or other hard-to-check areas. Parents should inspect children for ticks, paying special attention to areas such as the underarms, in and around the ears, the neck area, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and in the hair and scalp area. While bathing and showering will not necessarily wash off all ticks, it can help you more easily search and spot ticks. Examine your pets and gear.  Ticks can enter the home by attaching to your pets and even the gear you had outdoors. Wash and tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 60 minutes to kill any ticks that may have attached to your clothing.

The tick is attached!  How do I remove it?
Don’t worry…it’s as easy as 1-2-3-4!

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick near the mouth parts, as close to skin as possible.
  2. Pull tick in a steady, upward motion away from skin.
  3. Thoroughly clean the bite area and hands with soap and water, rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.
  4. Note the date and location of the tick bite.  If rash or flu-like symptoms appear, make an appointment with your Fort HealthCare primary care provider or come visit me at Fort HealthCare’s newest clinic, Integrated Family Care.
Laurie Runte, PNP

About Laurie Runte, PNP

Education
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Certification
Pediatric Nursing Certification Board: Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
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