Ticks Are Part of the Natural Landscape
In the warmer weather we start worrying about ticks, but according to the Lake County Health Department, daily even hourly weather conditions can affect tick activity, which is not restricted to spring and summer. A warm day in December, in the 50s, can stimulate activity. Ticks don’t mind humidity because they can dry out very easily. In most instances they hang onto plants waiting for something to brush by, but if it’s windy or hot they prefer staying on leaves or at the bottom of grass.
It is important for residents to take precautions against ticks. Ticks can infect humans and wildlife with bacteria, viruses and parasites that can cause serious illness. There are two species of ticks in Lake County: the deer tick and the wood tick. Of these two species, only deer ticks can transmit Lyme disease. However, wood ticks, also referred to as American dog ticks, do have the ability to pass on other bacterial infections such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia.
• Can transmit Lyme disease
• Very small in size –1/8 inch long
• Brownish-orange with black spot near head (female)
• All black with brown border on rear edge (male)
• Found most commonly in wooded areas and leaf litter
• Also referred to as black-legged tick
• Can transmit other pathogens, such as Babesia and Anaplasma
• Unlikely to transmit Lyme disease
• Twice as large as a deer tick – 1/4-inch long
• Dark body with white markings near head (female)
• Dark body with white markings covering back (male)
• Found most commonly in grassy and shrubby areas
Although deer ticks are native to North America, they were not found in northern Illinois prior to 2000 and were first documented in Lake County in 2006. Statistics kept by the Lake County Health Department confirm that cases of Lyme disease in the County are on the rise. According to the Health Department, in order to transmit illness, a deer tick must be attached to the skin for at least 24 hours. Generally symptoms of Lyme Disease occur 7 to 14 days after the deer tick has consumed a blood meal.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
• “bull’s-eye” rashes or lesions around the site of the bite
• muscle and/or joint aches
• Do use tweezers or a tick remover (purchase at pet stores or over internet) to grasp the body near the skin surface and pull gently.
• Do use a piece of tissue to grasp the body and pull gently backwards.
• Do not use a lighted cigarette or match to burn off a tick and don’t cover it with petroleum jelly (shock can cause a tick to transmit bacteria faster).
• Do not twist or yank the body.
• If the mouth parts do break off, do not become alarmed. Once the mouthparts are detached from the rest of the body, the tick can no longer transmit the Lyme disease bacteria because the bacteria are located in the stomach (keep the area clean and allow the head to dislodge naturally)
• If you want to have an intact tick identified, put it in a small vial of rubbing alcohol and contact the Lake County Health Department.
Prevention reduces risk
Warm moist weather brings out ticks! If hiking or walking in a wooded area stay in the middle of the path and follow some simple rules.
• Use an insect repellent with DEET (children – 30% DEET or less; adults – 40% DEET or less) Avoid hands, eyes and mouth.
• Use permethrin 0.5% on clothing ONLY. Permethrin kills ticks on contact, but should not be used on skin. It remains protective through several washings.
• Choose light-colored clothing with long sleeves and long pants.
• Pull up socks over the pants.
• Wrap duck tape (sticky side out) where pants and socks meet.
• Protect pets with a product such as Frontline. Used as instructed, it should protect your pet from ticks, fleas, flea eggs/larvae and lice.
Check for ticks after outdoor activities
The following actions are recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to detect ticks or prevent attachment
• Do thorough body checks, including children and pets. Ticks are often found on the neck, behind the ears, in the areas of the groin, under arms, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in hair.
• Take a bath or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within 2 hours)
• Examine gear and pets thoroughly. Ticks can ride into a home on clothing, backpacks and pets and then later attach to a person.
• Place any dry clothes worn in the woods in a clothes dryer and tumble dry for 10 minutes at a high setting. If the clothes are damp, additional drying time may be needed.
• If clothes are very dirty and require washing, hot water is recommended. Cold or medium temperature water will not kill ticks effectively. If hot water cannot be used on the clothes, wash the clothes as instructed and dry them using a low-heat setting for 90 minutes. Clothes should be warm and completely dry.