Protect yourself against ticks

Wisconsin summers bring beautiful weather. Some see this as an opportunity to crank the air conditioning, but many will take advantage of this opportunity to get outdoors. When you are taking in the scenic lakefront, hiking the Ice Age Trail, or some other outdoor activity, the most common pest you might encounter are mosquitoes. While these are a nuisance, there is another insect to look out for — ticks. Ticks are a type of parasite that attach to a host organism and feed off them. There are a variety of tick species in Wisconsin. According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Entomology, most common are the wood and deer tick. Although small, ticks can carry a number of diseases. The Wisconsin Division of Public Health lists Anaplasmosis, Powassan virus, and, most prominently, Lyme disease as examples. Data from the Center for Disease Control show a decrease from 20102015 in the number of people contracting Lyme disease in Wisconsin each year. However, those numbers are still higher than other states, with 1,309 confirmed cases in 2015, which is why Wisconsinites need to protect themselves from ticks. To learn how to protect yourself against ticks, here are answers to some key questions:

Where can I commonly find ticks?

Tick habitats are common in wooded areas, tall grass and other brush. They can also be found on or near their hosts: dogs, deer, horses, humans, etc.

How can I protect myself from ticks?

One way to protect yourself from ticks is by personal protective measures or individual behaviors that lower risk. The most definitive way to be tick free is by avoiding their habitat. But when living in our state, that is not always possible. If you are in a tick habitat, there are several steps that can prevent you from becoming their next meal: 1. Use an effective tick repellent. The center recommends one containing 20-30 percent DEET, sprayed to cover skin and clothing.

2. Dress smart by wearing long sleeves, pants and high socks tucked in, which will keep ticks on your clothing, instead of on your skin.

3. Even after these precautions, is it is still important to inspect yourself for ticks after being outdoors.

4. Another protective measure is changing your environment to make it less tick-friendly. To do this, the center recommends purposefully creating an environment ticks do not like. Maintain your property by mowing and clearing overgrown grass or brush from areas you frequently use. If you can, create a barrier between the lawn and wooded areas. Eliminate habitats of ticks’ favorite hosts by removing woodpiles, building a fence to deter deer and removing any trash that may give a host a place to hide.

What should I do if I find a tick?

First, remain calm. The center recommends using a tweezers and pinching the tick as close to the skin as possible. Once pinched, pull up and out with constant, firm tension. Do not use bare hands. It is important to be gentle because damaging a tick could release contaminated fluids. If you experience symptoms such as rash, fever, chills, fatigue or aches, contact your medical provider.

These tips should keep you enjoying the outdoors tick-free!

Samuel Kefer is an intern at the Sheboygan County Division of Public Health, in partner with the Wisconsin Area Health Education Centers.