OSU Extension - Ross County

06/14/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/14/2024 12:06

Ticks and mosquitoes are waiting on you

COLUMBUS, Ohio - If you enjoy being outside in the warmer months, just know that you may have plenty of company whether you are in your backyard, on a hiking trail, or on the water. Pests such as mosquitoes and ticks might bite if you get close.

Knowing how to keep you, your family, and your animals tick- and mosquito-safe is important as we enter the time of peak activity, says Tim McDermott, an educator with Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

"We are entering the highest risk period for Lyme disease because nymphal blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are most active in May and June," he said.

While Lyme disease doesn't manifest in every case,Lyme disease symptoms can include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash that is circular and expanding, with a target like appearance. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.

"If a tick bites you, make sure to contact your health care provider to get the proper guidance on testing and treatment," McDermott said."Ticks and the diseases they transmit have been steadily increasing for the past 13 years."

Annual Ohio Lyme disease cases increased 35 times between 2010 and 2023, largely because of the range expansion of the blacklegged tick, increasing numbers of deer in Ohio, and gradual reforestation of previous deforested habitat.

For example, Ohio had 1,283 cases of Lyme disease statewide in 2023, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

The key is to prevent being bitten, McDermott said.

"Make sure to develop a personal protective plan that includes scouting, tick checks, the right clothing, and topical repellents," he said. "Wearing permethrin-treated clothes is a great way of preventing bites."

Environmental Protection Agency-approved repellent products are great too, McDermott said.

"Find a repellent that's right for you from epa.gov/insect-repellents," he said. "The EPA website has a decision-making tool to assist you in choosing which repellent is best for your situation."

One educational resource that McDermott recommends is the Bite Siteat kx.osu.edu/bite,which was developed by the CFAES Knowledge Exchange.

"It provides up-to-date information on the newest research and data to assist Ohioans in keeping themselves, their families, and their animals safe from biting pests such as ticks, mosquitoes, and even bed bugs," he said.

At the Bite Site,you can learn about the five different tick species of medical consequence in Ohio; how to remove them safely; and how to protect yourself, your family, your animals, and your property. Also read about the three mosquito species found in Ohio and the diseases they can spread in Ohio and outside of the United States.

Mosquitoes can transmitinsect-borne diseases such as malaria, West Nile virus, dengue fever, yellow fever, and several viruses that cause encephalitis. Ticks can transmit tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever, tularemia, and ehrlichiosis.

When spending time outside, everyone should take preventive measures:

  • Wear light-colored long pants to make seeing ticks easier for removal.
  • Make sure your shoes and clothing are properly treated with permethrin.
  • Use a topical repellent on your skin. The EPA website provides excellent guidance.
  • Make sure to read, understand, and follow the label on all pesticides and repellents; the label is the law.
  • Try to stay in the middle of the pathway when hiking to decrease the chances of encountering ticks.
  • Eliminate standing water sources on your property to decrease the spots where mosquitoes can breed.
  • Do a thorough tick check when leaving tick habitats to make sure no ticks have bitten you or are being brought home with you.
  • Work with your veterinarian to make sure you are using the best products that fit in your budget to keep your companion animals tick-safe.
  • Make sure to reach out to your health care provider if you have concerns from a tick or mosquito bite.

McDermott said that just because you are at risk of encountering ticks and mosquitoes outdoors does not mean you should avoid going outside and enjoying the summer.

"We all just need to make sure we are taking the proper precautions," he said. "Make sure you check out the Bite Site to learn how you can keep yourself, your family, and your animals tick- and mosquito-safe this summer.