Now that we are in full spring mode in Arkansas, we are not the only ones enjoying the warm weather. Blood-sucking ticks are waiting for their next meal and when a tick bites it could be carrying a disease.
Nichole Nichols with the Pulaski County Extension Office of the University of Arkansas was part of a statewide study on the creepy crawlies and said Arkansas is home to five different species of ticks.
“On our tick study out of 10,000 ticks 76 percent were Lonestar ticks and those are the main ones that carry disease in Arkansas,” she said.
Ticks are known to carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, along with Lyme disease and Alpha-gal which causes an allergy to red meat.
The 2016-2018 study for Pulaski County showed a high concentration of ticks were observed in Two Rivers Park, Nichols said.
The reason is the trail goes through prime habitat for the parasites, Nichols said.
Ticks can be in leaf litter, tall grasses and the woods. They find their hosts by sensing carbon dioxide which animals produce when they breathe out.
Nichols said as you walk by they attach to your clothes or skin, and climb up looking for a place to feed. When you spot a tick crawling on you, use a tissue if you can and pull it off, then wash your hands.
However, if the tick is already enjoying a blood buffet the only recommended way by Nichols and the Arkansas Department of Health is to use a clean set of tweezers, get as close to the skin as possible and pull straight up, don’t twist or jerk the tick.
The longer a tick feeds the chances of being infected increase.
After removing the tick, dispose of it and wash your hands and the bitten area with soap and water.
When removing a tick, experts said do not use any home remedies that make the tick unlatch. Products such as petroleum jelly, any oils, or a match, may kill the tick but before the tick dies it could regurgitate the blood which could have a disease back in you.
Also the oils and other products may trap any pathogens in your skin, Nichols said.
“If you have a tick and you have a rash around where it was, and you start not feeling well, it is time to go to the doctor because that could be a sign of Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted fever,” she said.
The best way to avoid getting sick from a tick is to prevent ticks from making you into a snack.
Wear long sleeves, light colored clothing, a hat, also trade in shorts for pants.
“Tuck those into your socks and wear white colored socks to see when they start coming up or get on you,” Nichols said.
Another way to repel the creatures is to use bug spray with DEET or the natural alternative BIO UD.
Don’t forget to reapply if you sweat or get wet.
After coming in from being outside in an environment that may have ticks, take a shower and do a through check using a mirror.
Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs and especially their hair.