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How to keep ticks away and what to do if you find one

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Tick. Image from Iowa Department of Public Health website

It’s tick season.

Ticks tend to appear when the weather brings warmer temperatures and rain, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH).  The little creatures can spread diseases like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Ehrlichiosis.

To protect yourself from tick bites, you need to take preventative measures and remember to check yourself.

IDPH recommends you:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long, light-colored pants tucked into socks or boots.
  • Stay on trails when walking or hiking, and avoid high grass.
  • Use insect repellants that contain DEET. Read and follow the label directions for application. DEET is not recommended for use on children under 2 months of age. Click here for more information on DEET. 

There are certain places ticks like to hide.  IDPH says ticks prefer places like the back of the knee, armpit, scalp, groin, and the back of the neck; something to remember when checking yourself, your kids, and your pets.

Bugs:  Recognizing and treating what bit you 

If you DO find a tick on your body, IDPH says to remove it right away.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise you do the following:

  • Carefully grasp the tick by using  fine-tipped tweezers to grip the tick by its mouthparts which are close to the skin. Do not squeeze the tick’s body.
  • Pull steadily directly away from your skin. Because removing the tick’s body is your main goal, don’t worry if its mouthparts break off in the process.  If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  • Clean the wound and disinfect the site of the bite.
  • Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.

Don’t be fooled by folk remedies that advise you burn the tick, or cover it with petroleum jelly. IDPH says these methods “are not effective.”

The most common ailment that can come from ticks is Lyme disease, according to the IDPH. In 2015 there were 319 cases reported.

Click here for more information on Lyme disease.

Symptoms can appear anywhere from a few days after a bite to a month.  At first a rash appears like a small, red bump. That expands to look like a bull’s eye with a red center and a red ring surrounding a clear area.

IDPH advises you contact your doctor immediately if you develop a rash like this, or if you start to develop flu-like symptoms after having a tick bite or if you’re in a place where ticks are present.