Hey Dunes Goers, Let’s Do a Tick Talk
Submitted by: Jessica Campbell
Feature photo by: Jenny Soffin
“Don’t hate the messenger, hate the tick!” Yes, this may be just one little quote from a Gilmore Girls episode, but the topic of ticks is one that is prevalent throughout Northwest Indiana. But why? Why are our Dunes the home to so many different types of these unpleasant beings?
We are in the final days of May, which is Indiana’s Lyme Disease Awareness Month, a call to all Hoosiers to be cautious. But, remain vigilant – they are just going to get worse.
There are three common ticks found in Indiana, the American Dog Tick, the Lone Star Tick, and the Blacklegged, or “deer” Tick. The population of ticks increases in warm weather and can be found in all types of outdoor terrain: open fields, woods, and backyards, and can be carried by wildlife, mice, deer, birds, and domestic animals.
Like animals, ticks can be found on humans, and once bitten that person could be affected with Lyme Disease.
According to the Indiana Lyme Connect group, 1 in 5 deer tick nymphs carry the Lyme Disease bacteria and 1 in 2 deer tick adult female ticks carry the disease.
What is scary about tick bites and Lyme Disease, is that there is no definite cause, symptom, or treatment.
Why Northwest Indiana?
We know ticks prefer wetter areas, surrounded by tall grasses and woods. The Dunes’ trails snuggly fitted between miles of trees, plants and leaves are some of the most tick-infested areas in the state. Ticks are attracted to sandy, acidic soil and clamp onto pine and oak trees. They also nest within blueberry-type plants. Fish and wildlife areas are also strongly contaminated with the little bug-like creatures, so places like Cowles Bog, Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve and near the Little Calumet River are all places where ticks can be found. Places with tall vegetation (especially in the early morning with dew on the grass) have a high risk of ticks, where they can “quest” – or reach out and attach onto a person or animal.
Right now, April through June has an abundance of tick sightings, both nymphs and adults. Ticks do not especially like the extreme heat, like we see in July and August, but in the fall, we will expect to see another rise in the deer tick population.
Most of the time, ticks will nestle into a person’s hair on their head, but that does not mean ignore the rest of your body. Ticks can be found all over the skin, biting arms, legs, and other places. They have been know to attach themselves to the back of the knee, the armpit and behind the ear.
What is Lyme Disease?
Most people associate Lyme disease with a tick bite, but it is now known that there are other modes of transmission, including flies, mosquitoes, spiders, and even in utero from mother to baby.
The disease can be transferred within 24 hours. A typical sign of the disease is a bulls-eye looking rash around the bite mark, though this sign may not always be present. Flu-like symptoms immediately following a bite, is another common result.
Diagnosis of the disease is extremely difficult since it is called a “mimic” disease, in which its symptoms mimic nearly 350 different conditions. Symptoms may increase within a month of the bite.
Lyme Disease can result in severe and lasting cognitive, neuropsychiatric, and musculoskeletal conditions. Most people with the disease are diagnosed with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia because of the pain found in muscles and joints. The longer the infection lingers, the more intensive options and less effective treatment are available.
How to prevent Lyme Disease/tick bites
-Wear long sleeves and pants, and tucking your pants into your socks prevents ticks even further.
-Wearing bug spray with DEET.
-Avoiding places with tall grass and vegetation, where it will brush up against you.
-Wash your clothes after being outside.
-Check your body and head thoroughly! Ticks can be the size of a poppy-seed and may not be easily detected.
-Treat clothing with permethrin
-Wear hats when outside near the woods
*If you find a tick remove immediately. Using your fingernails or tweezers, make sure to pinch the tick at its head and go slow and steady straight upward with tweezers parallel to skin. Ticks can be killed by placing in alcohol or flushed down the toilet.
Don’t forget the pets!
Though dogs are checked every year for Lyme Disease at the vet, your furry friend is still at a high risk for tick bites and diseases. Dogs are everywhere – on the trail, off the trail, through the grass, under the tree, and of course, jumping into every creek. Ticks will swarm your dog, which then can transfer to a homebound cat within minutes, as well as bedding and blankets.
After a dog has been outside, brush your fingers through their fur applying enough pressure to feel any small bumps. Check between the dog’s toes, behind ears, under armpits and around the tail and head. A tick that has embedded itself in your dog will vary in size depending on how long its been attached. You can get tick and flea medication from pet stores and from your veterinarian.
Ticks are a hot topic right now, but you’re not going to feel too hot when you’re pulling one off of yourself, your dog, or your family member. The best way to combat the little bugger is take measures in prevention, education, and getting an early diagnosis if the bite becomes infected.
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