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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Prevention is key during peak tick season

STILLWATER, Okla. – Even full grown, ticks measure far less than a quarter inch, yet the tiny creatures can cause big problems.

In Oklahoma, the American dog tick and lone star tick are most prevalent this time of year, said Justin Talley, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension livestock entomologist.

“These ticks are in your yard, and if you spend time at any recreational area, especially in eastern or central Oklahoma, or if you share common indoor areas with your pets, there’s a good chance you’ll come in contact with these species,” Talley said.

The American dog tick prefers domestic animals such as dogs. It is a known source of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, the most common tickborne disease in Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, the lone star tick is attracted to humans and different stages of the tick are active between March and September, said Bruce Noden, OSU medical and veterinary entomologist.

“Pay attention to lone star ticks as they can transmit a variety of tickborne diseases including Ehrlichiosis, Tularemia and a newly reported virus called Heartland virus,” Noden said.

Tickborne diseases can produce a wide range of symptoms, including some severe enough to require hospitalization.

Since there is no way to completely escape ticks, especially in the summer, take as many precautions as possible to cut your risk of exposure, said Gina Peek, OSU Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist.

Ticks dry out easily, so taking away moisture and shade can be helpful. You can make your property less hospitable to ticks by keeping the lawn mowed, weeded and free of any leaf and yard waste.

Dressing appropriately is another easy precaution families can take.

“Wear long pants and tuck your pant legs inside boots or wear high socks. Wrapping tape, sticky side out, around the cuffs of your pants, will cause ticks to adhere to the tape,” Peek said. “Also, choose light colored clothing so ticks are easier to detect.”

Repellent will offer an added layer of protection as long as it contains a minimum of a 20 percent concentration of DEET, which acts as a strong buffer against ticks. You also can spray permethrin, an insecticide, directly on your clothing, but not your skin. Permethrin is effective for up to three washings.

Finally, frequently and thoroughly examine family members for ticks from head to toe. Regularly check your family pets, too, especially before they come inside the house from outdoors.

If a tick does bite a family member, remove it immediately. Use tweezers, tissues and a cloth or plastic bag turned inside out to grasp the tick and pull it slowly away from the skin without yanking or twisting. Then, freeze the tick in a plastic bag and record the date of the bite in case the person becomes sick.

Try not to remove ticks with your bare hands in case the tick is diseased. Avoid using matches or other hot objects to remove ticks. Also, avoid relying on folk methods such as suffocating ticks with Vaseline.

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