State health officials are cautioning Hoosiers to protect themselves from ticks during warmer weather, when outdoor activities increase the likelihood of exposure to ticks and the diseases they can carry.
Ticks are small, insect-like creatures that are found throughout Indiana in grassy and wooded areas. They tend to be most active during the late spring and early summer. Ticks can transmit a variety of diseases, including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. In 2016, Indiana reported more than 200 cases of tick-borne illness.
“Ticks are a significant public health concern because they can transmit serious illnesses,” said Jennifer Brown, D.V.M., M.P.H., state public health veterinarian at the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH). “The best way to protect yourself and your family is to prevent tick bites and conduct frequent tick checks during and after outdoor activities.”
Hoosiers can reduce their risk of tick bites by:
- Wearing a long-sleeved shirt and light-colored pants, with the shirt tucked in at the waist and the pants tucked into socks, if they will be in grassy or wooded areas
- Using EPA-registered insect repellents with active ingredients such as DEET and picaridin
- Applying products containing permethrin to clothing. Permethrin should not be used on bare skin
Once indoors, people should thoroughly check for ticks on clothing, gear, pets and skin. Showering can help remove any unattached ticks. Ticks usually need to be attached for several hours to a couple of days before they can transmit disease, so timely removal of ticks can protect people’s health.
Ticks may be safely removed by using tweezers to grasp the tick close to the skin and then pulling outward with steady and even pressure. After the tick is removed, the area should be washed thoroughly. The tick should be discarded by submerging it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag or container, wrapping it tightly in tape or flushing it down the toilet. Ticks should never be crushed with the fingernails.
Anyone who becomes ill after finding an attached tick should see a medical provider immediately. Tick-borne diseases can be treated with antibiotics, and prompt diagnosis can help prevent complications.