Something inching up on your body usually spurs a range of reactions: irritated at best, downright scary at worst.
In a world of uninvited crawling critters, ticks might be the most unwelcome of all in your Stonebank backyard.
Ticks combine the worst of many dangerous bugs. They suck blood. They carry diseases. They latch on tight. And, once found, they can be difficult to remove.
Worse yet, some ticks are so small they can't be felt. You have to search for them on your body.
Warm, wet weather – such as spring 2013 in Stonebank and northern Illinois – brings out ticks in high numbers. Spring and summer is their prime time. It's also when people are most active outdoors.
Ticks live in Stonebank's wooded areas and brushy fields. When a potential host – human, dog or other warm-blooded creature – walks, they crawl aboard. From there, it's a short trip to dinner. They dig in and start feeding. A tick can multiply its size many times over as it fills with blood.
While finding a tick is certainly annoying (and creepy), the real danger is the potential for getting sick – very sick. Bites from ticks can be serious health risks.
Lyme disease is the most well-known tickborne illness. Deer ticks, often as small as a pinhead, carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Its incidence has grown rapidly in Stonebank and the Midwest. In Wisconsin alone, the average annual number of reported Lyme disease cases grew sixfold between 1997 and 2011.
Lyme disease starts bad and goes downhill. The initial signal is often a circular rash on skin. Symptoms of Lyme disease quickly devolve into fatigue, fever and chills, joint pain and headaches. Left untreated, or caught too late, Lyme disease can lead to arthritis, heart problems, and other painful, disabling physical and mental issues.
Ticks carry several other diseases with largely unpronounceable names. All have notably unpleasant symptoms.
Treating your Stonebank property is one way to keep people and pets safe. Another is creating clear paths between lawn and wooded areas using wood chips or gravel. Clearing away tall grass helps.
If you're walking outside, long-sleeved shirts and long pants can protect against ticks. Tucking pants into socks or boots creates a tight barrier. Wearing light-colored clothing makes ticks easier to spot.
Tick repellents are on the market in Stonebank, and they're strong stuff. Twenty percent DEET formula is recommended.
Once back inside, a complete body "tick check" is smart. Ticks tend to hide, so don't miss your body's natural areas of cover: hair, scalp, armpits, groin and behind the knee. Even wood ticks, the other common species in Wisconsin, are only about a quarter-inch long (before blood siphoning, that is). Don't be shy about searching, lest you miss a clinging tick.
Should you find one, knowing how to remove a tick is critical. Grab it with a tweezers as close to the skin as possible, and pull straight up and out.
Don't forget to examine Fido, either. Pets can carry infected ticks into your Stonebank home. If your dog or cat roams tick habitat, a veterinarian can apply or recommend a topical repellent to keep ticks away.
Prevention is the best way to avoid bites and sicknesses from ticks. Contact The Mosquito Guy for a Stonebank yard application to protect against these tiny blood suckers. The last thing you want to do is spend your summer ticked off.