Tick season ramps up
With signs of life returning to Minnesota and Wisconsin parks and trails this month, people are once again returning to their favorite outdoor activities. But the annual springtime renewal also means the return of deer ticks and the increased threat of Lyme disease.
May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and experts are giving tips to help avoid contracting a potentially dangerous tick-borne illness.
The risk of Lyme disease is highest from mid-May through mid-July when the small deer tick nymphs are feeding, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Forested areas in eastern and central Minnesota — including Goodhue County — are most likely to have ticks that carry Lyme disease.
Heavy snowfall last winter insulated the ticks from the cold, helping their survival, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
“We are currently finding large numbers of the adult blacklegged ticks at central and southeastern Minnesota field study locations and expect the immature nymph stage of the tick to become active very soon,” said David Neitzel, a MDH tick-borne disease specialist, in a news release.
An infected tick can transfer the bacterium that causes the disease through its bite, leading to fatigue, chills, head and muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes. The site also commonly develops a signature bull’s-eye rash that can expand up to a foot wide.
Treatment for Lyme disease in its early stages calls for oral antibiotics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If left untreated, the CDC says the disease can lead to meningitis, loss of muscle tone on the face and heart palpitations. Additionally, around 60 percent of cases left untreated can result in recurring arthritis attacks.
Avoiding Lyme disease means avoiding deer tick habitats during peak times or taking steps to repel the creatures.
The MDH says to stay in the center of trails and paths to keep from getting close to brush or tall grass. Keeping lawns mowed and free of brush also can help reduce the risk of tick bites for those living near woods.
When moving through high-risk areas, the MDH recommends using a tick repellent while wearing a long-sleeved shirt and long pants that also are tucked into socks or boots. Wearing light colors can make the ticks easier to spot.
The risk of developing Lyme disease is small if the tick is removed within a day of becoming attached.
To remove a tick, the DNR says to:
•Grasp the tick with tweezers close to its mouth.
•Pull the tick out with slow, gentle force.
•Wash the area fully and apply antiseptic to the bite.
Squeezing or crushing the tick can cause bacteria to be transmitted.
The MDH also advises against folk remedies like petroleum jelly, nail polish remover or burning the tick with a match.
More info at www.dnr.state.mn.us/insects/deerticks.