Tick season may not be listed on the sportsmen's calendar, but that shouldn't prevent hunters from going outdoors prepared for a very likely encounter with this prolific species. As weather warms this spring, ticks will become active, most likely until midsummer, or later. Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts can take several steps to prevent becoming a host to these hitchhikers and the various diseases they may carry.
Ticks are often associated with one of two groups: hard or soft ticks. "Hard ticks" are often found in wooded, grassy, or other densely vegetated areas, whereas "soft ticks" tend to reside in bird nests, on rodents, and on bats. Although many ticks can make their way to people, no species of tick depends solely on humans for survival. Some species are quite host-specific or accept only a few closely-related host species, however, due to the fact that a female tick can lay anywhere from 3,000 to 11,000 eggs, this should not be taken lightly.
The best way to reduce the risk of contracting tick-borne diseases is to avoid tick-infested habitat in the first place. Since this is not an option for turkey hunters, hikers and morel mushroom hunters, listed below are a few simple precautions that can reduce the chances of a tick encounter.
- Tip #1: Since most ticks crawl upward onto a host, tuck your pantlegs into your boots and shirts into your pants. For extra protection, tape such clothing junctures with duct tape, then twist the tape so the sticky side is out and make one more wrap.
- Tip #2: Wear light-colored clothing when possible. This makes it easier to see ticks crawling around before they find their way to your skin.
- Tip #3: Look for a repellent that contains 0.5 percent or more of permethrin. This works as a great tick repellent and can usually be used on clothing. In fact, some products containing permethrin can remain bonded with clothing fibers even through laundering.
- Tip #4: When you return from the outdoors, inspect all your clothing before going inside. Once inside, do a thorough whole-body inspection and wash your clothing as soon as possible.
- Tip #5: Don't forget to protect man's best friend. Commercially available dog dips containing amitrax or permethrin can provide canines with tick protection for two to three weeks per treatment. For the very best tick prevention for canines, contact your local veterinarian and inquire about prescribed treatment options, most of which can now last for a month or more.
If a tick is found, it is recommended that the tick be removed as soon as possible and the affected area is disinfected immediately following the removal.
Research trials have shown that the best method to remove a tick is to grasp the tick close to the skin with fine-tipped tweezers, placing the tweezers close to and parallel to the skin so that you grasp the base of the tick's mouthparts rather than its body. Pull gently but firmly, straight away from the skin until the tick comes free. Keep in mind that it's best to grasp the tick from its back to its belly, instead of from side to side - this helps to prevent the tick's mouthparts from remaining imbedded in the skin. The sooner a tick is removed, the less chance it will transmit a disease to its host.
One of the most common diseases transmitted by ticks is Lyme disease. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had 11 confirmed cases and six probable cases of Lyme Disease within Kansas. To put things in perspective, Pennsylvania had 4,739 confirmed cases the same year.
Other notable tick-born diseases found in Kansas include ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and tularemia.
After a tick bite, Lyme disease may progress several weeks without signs of illness, making diagnosis difficult. Years of pain and physical and mental impairment can result if untreated. The other three diseases often show signs within two to five days of a tick bite. They may progress so rapidly that a day or two of delay in diagnosis and treatment may result in death.
If signs of severe or persistent headaches, fever, soreness or stiffness in muscles and joints, appetite loss, fatigue, or a skin rash occur within three weeks after a tick bite, immediately contact your doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment is critical.
For more information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/index.html.