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Vigilance is Key to Preventing Tick Bites and Tick-Borne Diseases
Iowa Ag Connection - 06/01/2023

Ticks and the diseases they carry pose a significant risk to human health. As the weather warms up and more time is spent outdoors in Iowa, it is crucial to take preventive measures to reduce the chances of tick-borne illnesses. Laura Iles, the director and extension plant pathologist at the North Central Integrated Pest Management Center, provides valuable insights and strategies for avoiding ticks and effectively dealing with them.

In Iowa, there are over a dozen tick species, with the blacklegged or deer tick, the American dog or wood tick, and the lone star tick being the most common. While all three species can transmit disease-causing bacteria, the blacklegged tick is particularly worrisome as it can transmit Lyme disease. To avoid tick bites and the diseases they carry, consider the following strategies:

○ Stay away from areas known to be infested with ticks, especially during their most active periods.

○ Avoid tall grass and wooded areas with dense undergrowth, as ticks thrive in such environments.

○ Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and closed-toe shoes when in tick-prone areas.

○ Tuck pants into socks to create a barrier that makes it harder for ticks to reach the skin.

○ Apply insect repellent to clothing, focusing on areas where ticks are likely to crawl.

○ Perform regular tick checks on yourself, children, and pets after spending time outdoors.

○ If you find a crawling tick, remove it promptly to prevent attachment and potential disease transmission.

○ Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull it straight out without twisting.

○ Avoid using substances like Vaseline or alcohol on the tick, as they may worsen the situation.

By implementing these prevention strategies and remaining vigilant, you can significantly reduce the risk of tick bites and the associated diseases. For more detailed information, including tick images and disease symptoms, consult the Tick and Tick-Borne Diseases Pest Alert, available for free on the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Store. Stay safe and protect yourself from tick-related health risks this season.

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