Something inching up on your body usually creates a number of reactions: bothered at best, downright scary at worst.
In a world of unwanted crawling critters, ticks might be the most unwelcome of all in your McHenry County 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 McHenry County and Wisconsin – brings out ticks in large numbers. Spring and summer is their prime time. It's also when people are most active outdoors.
Ticks live in McHenry County's wooded areas and brushy fields. When a potential host – human, dog or other warm-blooded creature – walks, they climb 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 bothersome (and creepy), the real danger is the potential for getting sick – very sick. Bites from ticks can pose serious health risks.
Lyme disease is the most well-known tickborne ailment. Deer ticks, often as small as a pinhead, carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Its incidence has grown rapidly in McHenry County 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 only worsens. The initial warning 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 illnesses with largely unpronounceable names. All have notably unpleasant symptoms.
Treating your McHenry County property is one way to keep people and pets safe. Another is creating open 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 available in McHenry County, 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 hanger-on.
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 inspect Fido, either. Pets can carry infected ticks into your McHenry County 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 illnesses from ticks. Contact The Mosquito Guy for a McHenry County yard application to protect against these tiny blood suckers. The last thing you want to do is spend your summer ticked off.
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