Summer’s here in Kansas, and with it comes the relaxation of spending time outdoors – exploring great places like Shawnee Mission Park, Gage Park, Kaw Lake, Lake Perry or enjoying a backyard barbecue with your friends and family. But along with the sunshine and fresh air comes the unwelcome possibility of encountering ticks. These tiny hitchhikers can transmit a number of diseases through their bites, so it’s important to be aware of the risks and take steps to protect yourself.

This year, experts are anticipating a particularly active tick season due to the mild winter and warmer-than-average temperatures. While Kansas isn’t home to the lone star tick discovered in Michigan, we do have our fair share of tick species to be aware of.

Here’s what you need to know to stay safe from ticks this summer in Topeka, Lawrence, and Kansas City:

Tick Territory in Kansas

Ticks in Kansas are most common in wooded areas, tallgrass prairies, and areas with leaf litter. They don’t jump or fly, but they can latch onto your clothing or skin as you brush past them while hiking, biking, or even mowing the lawn. Knowing their preferred habitats can help you avoid unwanted encounters. When venturing outdoors, it’s best to:

  • Stick to the Trails: Walking in the center of well-maintained trails in parks and nature preserves minimizes your contact with overgrown brush and leaves where ticks might be lurking.
  • Do a Body Check: Before heading indoors after spending time outdoors, do a thorough check of your entire body and clothing for ticks. Pay particular attention to areas like the armpits, groin, behind the ears, and the back of the knees.

Multi-Layered Defense Against Ticks

A combination of approaches is most effective in deterring ticks. Here are some key strategies:

  • Insect Repellent: Use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent containing DEET at a concentration of 30% or higher. Always follow the instructions on the product label for safe and effective use.
  • Permethrin Treatment: Treating your clothes with permethrin-based repellents provides an extra layer of protection. Important: Permethrin is for use on fabrics only and should never be applied directly to skin.

Clothing Choices for Tick Protection

When venturing into tick territories, long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and socks are your best defense. Tucking your pants into your socks creates a further barrier against tick bites.

Tick Removal and Aftercare

Despite your best efforts, you might encounter a tick. The important thing is to remove it promptly and carefully. Here’s how:

  • Use Fine-Tipped Tweezers: Grip the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull upwards with steady, gentle pressure. Avoid squeezing the tick’s body, as this can increase the risk of infection.
  • Dispose of the Tick Properly: Once removed, place the tick in a sealed container.
  • Disinfect the Bite Site: Clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol or antiseptic solution.

Be Alert to Symptoms of Tick-Borne Illness

Not all tick bites transmit diseases, but it’s important to be aware of the symptoms that might indicate a problem. Seek medical attention if you experience any of the following after a tick bite:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • A rash around the bite site, particularly a bull’s-eye rash that looks like a red circle with a lighter center

Early diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever can significantly improve outcomes. Don’t hesitate to see your doctor if you have any concerns.

By following these tips, you can minimize your risk of tick bites and enjoy the outdoors safely this summer in Topeka, Lawrence, and Kansas City. We can help prevent yard pests with our Total Yard Pest Program.

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