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Worth a Look: Tick tips

Ticks can carry a variety of diseases and infections, but removing the parasites within 24 hours generally eliminates the risks.

A friend fishing the other night at Turtle River State Park west of Grand Forks sent a text to say he pulled four ticks off himself upon his return home.

The nasty parasites might have overshadowed the rainbow trout he caught—at least ticks weren't the only thing biting—but the encounter sheds light on the importance of prevention to keep ticks at bay this time of year.

As a reader suggested a couple of weeks ago, wearing light-colored clothing, tucking in pant legs and putting the clothes—make sure they have no metal parts—in the microwave and nuking any ticks that might have hitched a ride has all but eliminated his encounters with the parasites. That's saying something, because the reader spends a lot of time outdoors.

My friend's recent wood tick encounter served as a reminder that's worth sharing. May is Lyme Disease Awareness month. Deer ticks, which are much smaller than wood ticks, are primary carriers of the disease and are becoming more prevalent in our neck of the woods. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Lyme disease has become one of the fastest-growing epidemics in the country, with an estimated 300,000 cases a year.

With that in mind, here are some facts about ticks from Insect Shield, a company known for its tick-repellent clothing:

  • Ticks crawl up. They don't jump, fly or drop from trees onto your head and back. If you find one attached there, it most likely latched onto your foot or leg and crawled up over your entire body.
  • All ticks (including deer ticks) come in small, medium and large sizes.
  • Deer ticks are not killed by freezing temperatures and will be active any winter day that the ground is not snow-covered or frozen.
  • Tick-transmitted infections are more common these days than in past decades. Back in the day, tick bites were more of an annoyance but now a bite is much more likely to make you sick.
  • Only deer ticks transmit Lyme disease bacteria. The only way to get Lyme disease is by being bitten by a deer tick or one of its "cousins" found around the world.
  • For most tick-borne diseases, you have at least 24 hours to find and remove a feeding tick before it transmits an infection.
  • Deer tick nymphs look like a poppy seed on your skin.
  • The easiest and safest way to remove a tick is with a pointy tweezer, pulling the tick out like a splinter.
  • Clothing with built-in tick repellent is best for preventing tick bites.
Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998.  A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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