The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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May 21, 2014

Bug off! As weather warms, be on the lookout for ticks

As weather warms, be on the lookout for ticks

As the amount of time we spend outside increases, be aware that ticks are also active now.

There are two common species of ticks in Minnesota: the blacklegged tick (also known as deer tick) and the American dog tick (also called wood tick). While the American dog tick is mostly a nuisance, the blacklegged tick can potentially vector diseases to people, especially Lyme disease.

Take precautions when outdoors, especially in areas where ticks are known to occur. Use repellents, especially DEET, to protect against ticks. Also check yourself carefully after being outdoors for any ticks that may have found you. Remember that a tick has to be biting to be able to transmit a disease; if it is unattached it cannot transmit a disease.

If any ticks are found, it is important that they are correctly identified because blacklegged ticks carry disease while American dog ticks are not. Color and size are not always dependable when identifying ticks and it may be necessary to have specimens identified by an expert.

Personal protection

Ticks usually crawl onto people below the knees and then crawl upwards. When you are outdoors in known tick areas, wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Wear light-colored clothes so it is easier to see ticks on you. For added protection, tuck pants inside socks. This helps keep them on the outside of your clothing, giving you more time to see and remove them before they get to your skin and start feeding.

Stay on trails and avoid walking through woody, brushy, or grassy areas where ticks are most common.

Use repellents for additional protection. Apply them to socks, pant legs, and parts of clothing that may brush against vegetation.

DEET and permethrin are effective repellents. You can apply DEET to clothing and skin; 20-30 percent DEET protects for several hours. Although higher concentrations of DEET are available, there is evidence that suggests that there may not be much added protection with higher concentrations. Apply permethrin only to clothing. Permethrin-based repellents remain effective for several wearings. Do not overapply repellents; apply only enough to cover the desired area.

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