Summer has arrived in Kansas and many of us are enjoying the long days, sunshine and warmth by getting into the great outdoors. Unfortunately, these adventures can have the unwanted side effect of contact with ticks and mosquitoes.
While most tick bites are painless or may cause only mild redness, swelling or itching, some ticks carry diseases that can cause infection in humans. Tickborne diseases in Kansas include Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, Lyme Disease, Tularemia and Anaplasmosis. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is the most common tickborne disease in Kansas.
Mosquitoes commonly leave us with itchy, red, swollen welts but also can carry infection. There are several diseases carried by mosquitoes. However, West Nile Virus is the only mosquito-transmitted disease in Kansas in the past several years. In Kansas, tickborne infections are far more common than diseases transmitted by mosquitoes.
Infections, and even bites, from ticks and mosquitoes are not a necessary evil of summer. You can protect yourself by using an EPA-registered insect repellant containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. The Environmental Protection Agency even has a search tool that can help you find the best repellant for you. Just like sunscreen it is important to reapply according to package directions for continued effectiveness. If you are applying both sunscreen and insect repellant, make sure to apply sunscreen first.
Other ways of preventing tick and mosquito bites are to
- avoid wooded or bushy areas, areas with high grass and areas with stagnant water
- walk in the center of trails
- wear long shirts and pants
- wear permethrin-treated clothing (either pre-treated or do it yourself by following these DIY tips from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.)
As soon as possible after venturing outdoors (preferably within two hours), take a shower and complete a tick check on yourself. Also be sure to check your furry friends as they can bring ticks indoors with them.
Common symptoms of tick- and mosquito-transmitted infections are fevers, headaches, rashes, nausea, vomiting, aches/pains, decreased appetite and fatigue. If you develop any of these after having a mosquito or tick bite, I recommend you reach out to your primary care physician for evaluation.