More ticks this year mean more caution needed

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) With summer weather here, many people in our area spend time outdoors doing activities like hiking and biking. The summer months also happen to be the time when more ticks are looking for blood hosts. According to experts at the Allen County Health Department, there may be higher numbers of those ticks this year. The reason: mild winters. Ticks require blood hosts, like mice, deer, and other mammals. Those animals thrive in milder winters due to greater availability of vegetation and food sources. If you are traveling anywhere in the northeastern part of the U.S. this summer, the tick population is even higher, with most cases of Lyme disease in the U.S. occurring from Pennsylvania to Maine in recent years.

According to Dave Fiess, Director of the Vector Control and Environmental Services Division of the Allen County Department of Health, the most common ticks in our area are the American Dog Tick and the Brown Dog Tick, both of which only carry disease on rare occasion. The black-legged tick – more commonly known as the “deer tick” – is the primary tick that carries Lyme disease. They are smaller than the former two types of tick mentioned; they can be as small as a hangnail. Black-legged ticks are not common in Allen County. In fact, according to Fiess, in the 15 years he’s worked for the Allen County Department of Health, he has not had anyone bring one of these ticks in. But, that doesn’t mean they are not possible.

Ticks crawl up grass and brush and hang there with their back legs, leaving their front legs to grasp whatever passes by. Ticks can’t jump or fly – they attach themselves. Here are some tips to keep yourself tick-free:

  • Spray yourself and your clothing with bug spray – 23% DEET or higher.
  • Wear light-colored clothing so it’s easier to spot ticks.
  • Wear longer socks and tuck your pant legs into them to prevent ticks from crawling up your leg.
  • When you come back from a hike, check yourself for ticks – behind your ears, around your waist, under your arms, and on your head.

If you find a tick on you, remove it as soon as you can by grasping it with tweezers, as close to the skin as possible, and pulling it straight out. Matches/alcohol are not recommended to remove a tick.

For more information about tick safety, you can visit the Allen County Department of Health page or the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention website.