Beware of these bloodsuckers
Summer promises outdoor fun, but special precautions are likely to be a good idea this summer.
The tick population already is heavier than usual this year, Marion County health director Krista Schneider said.
“There are a variety of reasons for that, including weather and the animal population,” she said.
“I personally have seen more ticks this year than I have in past years,” she said.
Ticks can spread multiple diseases, Schneider said. Lyme disease, often the first tick-borne illness that comes to mind, is not the most prevalent in Kansas.
Ehrlichiosis, carried by the lone star tick, is the most prevalent in the state, Schneider said.
“We have not seen any tick-borne disease yet in Marion County,” she said. “I’m sure it will occur, but we have not seen any yet.”
Anaplasmosis is another tick-borne disease seen in Kansas. Spotted fever and rickettsioses also are seen in Kansas.
“This is the disease that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever,” Schneider said. “It is carried by the American dog tick. Those live in Marion County.”
Lyme disease in Kansas is likely a travel-related disease, she said. It’s caused by the blacklegged tick.
All tick-borne diseases can be serious, and some can be fatal. Nymph ticks, which look like poppy seeds, also transmit disease.
“Our best step is prevention so we can avoid getting a tick bite,” Schneider said.
Ticks tend to live in wooded areas, tall grass or brush, edges where woods and lawn meet, in leaf litter, under ground cover plants, and around stone walls and woodpiles where small mammals live. Ticks also can be brought inside by pets.
The best prevention when going into an area likely to harbor ticks is to use an insect repellant that contains DEET, she said.
Repellants containing DEET can be applied directly to skin as well as clothing. DEET repels, but does not kill, ticks as well as other pests, such as mosquitoes and flies.
Clothing, boots, tents, socks, and hiking gear can be treated with Permethrin, but the product is not safe to apply directly on skin, she said.
“If you wear light-colored clothing, it’s easier to see ticks,” Schneider said.
She recommends doing a tick check as soon as possible after visiting areas where ticks might be present. Ticks like to attach to scalps as well as crevices such as under the arms, in the groin area, on the backs of knees, and in areas where clothing is snug.
After that, she suggests a shower to wash off any ticks that have not attached.
Pets should be examined if they have been outside.
Early symptoms of tick-borne diseases include headache, fever, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, nausea and vomiting, lack of appetite, and rash.
Symptoms of tick-borne disease usually show up in one to five days after being bitten, but symptoms of Lyme disease can take 3 to 4 days to appear.
“A lot of tick-borne diseases can be treated with antibiotics,” Schneider said. “If you are experiencing these symptoms and have had a tick bite, you want to get into your doctor right away.
“Cases in Kansas usually begin in spring and can go into other months. Most cases are in the summer months, including June and July.”
Schneider said other summer fun activities carry risks as well.
Children should not be taken to swimming pools or splash pads if they have diarrhea.
Water can carry bacteria that cause diarrhea for other children.
For the same reason, infants’ diapers should not be changed near a source of water.
“It only takes one person’s diarrhea to contaminate an entire population of children,” Schneider said.
She also emphasized that children should wear life jackets when boating.
“That’s very important for children,” she said.
Children ages 1 to 4 die from drowning more often than any other cause in the United States, Schneider said.
For children ages 5 to 14, drowning is the second leading cause of death.
“Keeping with a responsible adult is the most important protection,” she said.
Access to pools, even backyard pools, should be prevented when the pool is not supervised. She also encourages people to wear sunscreen and apply sunscreen to children.
Last modified June 1, 2023