By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
STILLWATER, OK – Oklahomans have enjoyed a mild winter but that could mean an active tick season approaching. It is likely more ticks have survived and we should become familiar with how to deal ticks.
A new report from the Oklahoma State University Cooperative extension states that the “most effective front line defense against ticks is a repellant containing at least 25 percent DEET, but no repellant is 100 percent effective.”
Spring weather draws people and their pets outdoors. If a tick is found on your body or on your pet, it is recommended that “proper first aid involves a pair of tweezers.”
“When you find an attached tick, use tweezers to grasp and pull it out with slow and steady pressure or tick removal devices that do not twist to remove the tick,” said Justin Talley, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension livestock entomologist.
“If tweezers aren’t available, adult ticks can be pulled out by hand with slow steady force. Smaller ticks such as seed ticks or nymphs should be pulled out with tweezers.”
“Do not yank the tick out and do not put any kind of substance or liquid such as Vaseline, bleach or alcohol on the tick.”
Talley also recommends that “once a tick has been removed, it can be washed down the drain or sealed in a plastic bag and put in the garbage.”
Talley said, “The important thing is to dispose of ticks properly so you’re not just throwing them out on your property because even if you squeeze some of the blood out, those ticks can survive and lay eggs.’
According to Talley, the conditions are right for a heavy tick season, increasing the concern of tick-borne illnesses such as ehrlichiosis, tularemia, Bourbon Virus, Heartland Virus and Spotted Fever Group rickettsiosis, which includes Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
“Anyone who is going outside where there will be ticks is at risk for getting bitten, but we tend to see a higher risk of tick-borne illness in those who are outside on a constant basis, such as landscapers and individuals in production agriculture, such as cattle owners and horse owners,” stated Ray Ridlen, Oklahoma County OSU Cooperative Extension Agriculture Educator.
Ridlen highly recommends that after spending time outdoors, Oklahomans should check carefully that they are not transferring ticks into their cars or homes. If any unattached ticks are noticed “they can be brushed off the body or clothing.”
In the event that an ‘attached tick’ has been removed, it is also recommended that it be placed in a sealed plastic back in case symptoms begin to develop later.
“We recommend keeping the tick for about a month,” Ridlen said. “That way, if you begin developing symptoms, you can tell your doctor you were bitten by this particular tick. That gives the doctor a lot of clues and helps direct the treatment.”
Also, with the weather changing for the better, Oklahomans are often taking their pets outdoors with them. If left untreated, tick bites on furry companions may lead to serious health issues such as typhus and Lyme disease.
When with your pet, it is best to avoid heavily wooded or tall grassy areas where ticks can be lurking. Pet owners should contact their veterinarians to recommend what products work best. Daily “tick checks” are advised for dogs that are often outdoors.
For more information, contact the Oklahoma County OSU Cooperative Extension Center at 405-713-1125, or visit the Oklahoma County website.