By MIKE COURSON
As the temperatures begin to rise, the six and eight-legged things begin to thrive. While most insects and arachnids are harmless to humans, the tick is not one of them. Unfortunately, tick-borne illnesses have been on the uptick in recent years. With tick season in Kansas beginning in April, Kansas Wetlands Education Center Director Curtis Wolf said now is the time to start watching your environment.
"Any place that has taller vegetation and forested areas, you come across ticks and have them," he said. "If that's the case, one of the best things to do is do some checks over your clothes and your body after being in those areas to try to make sure, if you have a tick, get it taken care of as quickly as possible."
Ticks have been known to cause 18 diseases in humans, though just four are common in Kansas, namely Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Lyme gets its name from the Connecticut community where it was first described in 1975. There are an estimated 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease each year in the U.S. If left untreated, the disease can lead to neurological symptoms and heart problems. Symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which impacts nearly 2,000 people each year, can be more severe and even deadly.
There are ways to prevent tick bites, but in the event of a bite, removing the full tick in a timely manner can be crucial. The Mayo Clinic stresses grabbing the tick as close to the skin as possible and pulling upward with a steady motion. Twisting or jerking can leave part of the tick behind.
"The big thing is making sure to get the whole thing," Wolf said. "Using a pair of tweezers or one of the actual tick-remover tools is probably the best way, so you don't leave the head in, and then it can become infected and cause other issues."
Preventing tick bites may be ideal. Wearing long sleeves and pants protects the skin, and wearing light-colored clothing makes the ticks more visible. Insect repellents like OFF and DEET can reduce the risk of being bitten. Permethrin kills ticks rather than repels them and can be applied to clothing but not directly to the skin. Some companies even offer to treat clothes with Permethrin.
"One particular company called Insect Shield, you can buy clothing that already has the permethrin in it," said Wolf. "We actually sell some of those articles of clothing here at the Education Center. It is successful. It's a good thing to have."